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DCA Local Finance Board approves Cherry Hill and Merchantville

Perhaps today will be considered the day New Jersey reached its tipping point, when private citizens took it upon themselves to lower property taxes and create a more streamlined government.


For the first time in the history of New Jersey, the state Department of Community Affairs' Local Finance Board today approved an application by a grassroots group in Merchantville to form a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission with Cherry Hill.


"This is truly an historic moment; the first time a citizens' group has made an application to the Local Finance Board for municipal consolidation," said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey. "The law was passed in April, and now, four months later, a citizens group is already taking advantage of it."


Three public hearings were held in July on the issue in Cherry Hill and Merchantville. Under the state guidelines, the Municipal Consolidation Study Commission will now begin reviewing the proposed merger. It is expected the process could take between one and three years to produce a report and recommendations.


Bob Stocker, a member of the grassroots group, said he is pleased the Local Finance Board voted in favor of the application. "We have been closely following the letter of the law in this process and we're happy to see the state recognizes this effort," he said.


Stocker said his group has been working through the consolidation process with Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that helps residents examine ways to run government for efficiently, such as through municipal consolidation.


"It has been 18 months to get to this point and I really feel we've turned the corner," Stocker said. "We look forward to working closely with residents in both Merchantville and Cherry Hill to find the right solution that works best for both communities."