HomeCherry Hill NewsCherry Hill Mayor outline plans for moving forward with Merchantville

Cherry Hill Mayor outline plans for moving forward with Merchantville

Mayor’s Message: Bernie Platt

Throughout my 10 years as mayor of this township, I’ve tried to be progressive and proactive when focusing my administration’s efforts.

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As the municipality’s chief executive officer, my goal has always been to run Town Hall with the same business savvy that has sustained my own family business for the last 40 years.

Part of that success lies in being open to all suggestions and all options. Several months ago — as most residents know by now — a group of citizens from Merchantville approached Cherry Hill to express their desire to merge our municipalities.

Their idea is for Cherry Hill to absorb the existing borough of about 3,800 residents while continuing to preserve the character and identity of the small town.

On the surface, that concept seems like it would serve the best interests of the taxpayers. And I believe that, as the top elected official of this community, I have a responsibility to give the idea due diligence and make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth pursuing.

Municipal consolidation is a lengthy and complicated process governed by the state’s Department of Community Affairs.

A few months ago, Town Council asked the DCA for permission to explore the idea. Two weeks ago, I appointed the five-member commission that will, along with Merchantville’s team, study every aspect of consolidation as it would relate to our towns. Next Monday, July 18, we will hold two public meetings to introduce residents to the commission members and the process we are now beginning. The first meeting, at 7 p.m., will focus on Cherry Hill specifically. A joint meeting with Merchantville will be held immediately following the first session. Both will be held in the Carman Tilelli Community Center, at the Mercer Street municipal complex. It is important to note that both of these meetings are specifically about the consolidation study process.

No work has been done on consolidation yet and no information has been generated on the financial and human impact of a study. Theoretically, it certainly seems as though a merger with our neighbors could benefit the citizens of both municipalities, increasing efficiencies while reducing the administrative costs involved in running local government. These savings could help stabilize property taxes, giving much-needed relief to residents who already feel stretched to the limit. But by the same token, there are many questions to be answered. What will the real savings be? How much potential tax relief exists? How would a merger impact our schools and our public safety agencies? How would Cherry Hill benefit, specifically? And there are many more. The 10 men and women who comprise the joint commission have been tasked with combing through each of these questions and more.

At the end of the day, their job is to decide if a merger is in our community’s best interest, or if we should simply walk away.

If a merger is recommended, it will be put to a public vote in both towns. You, the residents of our communities, will ultimately make the final decision.

If it turns out the disadvantages ultimately outweigh the benefits, we can walk away from the table knowing we’ve entertained the idea and made an informed decision. But as mayor of this township, we owe it to the taxpayers to leave no stone unturned in trying to save money and increase our efficiency at every possible opportunity — no matter how daunting or unprecedented it is. The last municipal consolidation, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark, happened in Warren County in 1997. Nothing of this magnitude has taken place in our tri-county area in recent memory.

In this era, when our residents are overtaxed and stretched to their limits, perhaps it’s time for some of our smallest municipalities to look at whether they can remain sustainable. Whether you’re a town of 71,000 or 3,800, administrations must still fund items like road and infrastructure improvements, and Public Works and Police Departments.

On the surface, consolidation seems to be the epitome of good government at work. We will see where this road takes us.


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