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Why Not Combine Towns?

Have you ever wondered about the costs of all of our towns? Have you considered that we could combine towns to save money, streamline bureaucracies, and reduce municipal complexity?

We are inundated with messages that times are tough economically. Together with tight economic times are budgetary issues for governments, particularly local governments. Why aren’t more cities, towns, and villages combining to reduce the duplication in services? Think about it for a moment. Each city has a manager, administration staff, possibly fire and police departments with the overhead to run each. What about a parks department, street cleaning department with the bureaucratic hierarchy and all of its costs? 

Why not combine Capitola and Soquel? What about Aptos, Capitola, and Soquel? The taxpayer will now only pay one city manager, one administration staff that will be smaller than the two added separately (i.e. each town had 3 administrators for a total of 6, but combined needs only 5), one police department, one fire department. This could be significant in savings. Who right now would not like to save tens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars per year in taxes?

The Los Angeles Times reported that Princeton Borough and Princeton Township in New Jersey are combining into Princeton for exactly the reasons I stated above. This combination of two municipalities will save the taxpayers $3.1 million per year. Princeton Borough has 14,203 people, Princeton Township has 16,027 so the town of Princeton will have 30,230. With the savings divided by the population, each and every person will save over $102 per year. This means an average household of four people will save over $400 per year in local taxes. That is $400 that family can use to pay down debt, spend on children’s activities, save for a rainy day, or any number of things they choose to do with the money instead of handing that money over to their duplicated local governments.

One more significant advantage by combining two towns into one: a single municipal code. When was the last time you read your municipal code or needed to pull a permit?Municipal codes are generally complicated, somewhat arcane, and change on a regular basis. Take a look at the Santa Cruz Municipal Code here, the Capitola Municipal Code here, or the Scotts Valley Municipal Code here. Now think about a contractor for moment. Since they remodel, add-on, and generally improve homes, they need to keep track of all of the municipal codes where they work. Having one code to follow instead of two or more simplifies their job. The contractor also would then have a single place to get permits instead of several city halls to visit, along with less complexity in keeping tracking of the ever changing codes. Reducing the complexity of codes and paperwork streamlines work, reduces costs and overhead, is admirable, and ultimately beneficial to all.

Most people who will argue against combining neighboring townships make the value judgement that town history trumps economic sense. Some might argue that the smaller individual town will better serve the residents. Neither argument holds up under the harsh light of economic realities and a deepening sense of financial malaise.  

In the end, more towns, villages, and small cities need to look closely at combining resources for the overall good of the residents. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steve Premo January 15, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Um... Soquel and Aptos are not cities and have no city government. The closest we have to adjoining cities is Santa Cruz and Capitola, or Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, and the only other city is Watsonville. Of those, which ones should we combine? The rest of the county is already under a single government, including Davenport, San Lorenzo Valley, Soquel, Aptos, Corralitos, Freedom, Seascape, and Live Oak.
Colleen Bednarz January 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Steve is right. The city municipalities in this area are the Cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville, and Scotts Valley.
Ethan Bearman January 18, 2012 at 02:13 PM
So how about combining Santa Cruz and Capitola or Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley? Are economic times tough enough that you would like to save tax dollars each year through reduced administrative overhead?
Steve Premo January 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
What about the land in between? Are we going to incorporate those areas too? I live in Live Oak and prefer not having a city government at all. What could be cheaper than that? I suppose the residents of the cities could decide to disincorporate to save money and let the County make all the decisions. That would be fine with me; I live in an unincorporated area and I like it that way. But really, the residents of those cities are the ones to make that decision. I would oppose adding unincorporated areas to the cities, at least without a vote of the people that would be moved from county to city jurisdiction. I don't want to force people to live under the jurisdiction of a city council when they've chosen to live in an unincorporated area. I think your idea would make more sense as applied to adjacent cities, as opposed to cities that are several miles apart, with unincorporated land in between.

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