Monday, February 11, 2008

Edgewater Park Open Space Tax

I have a suggestion for lowering our property tax by 1¢. 

We need to eliminate the Open Space Tax that was approved in 2000 since the Township Committee has taken the stance that the town needs to allow for the development of housing on the remaining open space. In fact the mayor stated in her September 2006 Beverly Bee Mayor's message, "A county report provided to the township clearly states that Edgewater Park has more than enough open space for the size and population of our community." 

Township Committee members, Mayor Judy Hall, Tom Pullion, Jim Daly and the Administrator Linda Dougherty have publicly stated that they are not in favor of purchasing development rights or land, with the Open Space Tax Money. They have instead, used the Open Space Tax money to pay for Recreation Maintenance Projects.
The Open Space Tax and Ordinance passed in 2000 allows for some of the open space tax revenues to be used for maintenance of land purchased to be preserved. I am not aware that the township has purchased any land for open space preservation. The township may have used open space funds to pay some of the purchase expenses for the land on Bridgeboro Rd that was slated for Affordable Housing Townhouses. This Bridgeboro Rd property doesn't require the total Annual Open Space Tax to maintain this property. In fact I think the township only cuts the grass in the road right-a-way. Try getting away with that on Stevenson Ave.

To be fair to the Township Committee and Administrator, the amount of Open Space Tax collected since 2001 is approximately only $212,202.00 dollars and that clearly is not enough to purchase any of the remaining farmland or open space. 

But what the Township Committee and Administrator would not say, is any NJ municipality that has an Open Space Tax, can qualify for grants from the State Green Acre Fund for up to 50% of the cost and grants from the County, for 25% of the cost. This would leave the township with responsibility for 25% of the cost. The township can bond (borrow) at a low interest rate for this 25% and use the Open Space Tax to pay back the low interest loan . This system was created by the state to give municipalities the incentive to preserve open space.

Did you know that the town was awarded a Green Acre's Grant for $500,000 a few years ago and walked away from it (see 4/4/06 & 4/6/06 correction BCT articles)?
I believe the total amount approved for this Open Space Project was $1.15 million dollars, with a State grant of $500,000. The County would have kicked in $250,000 leaving the township responsible for the remaining $400,000 to be funded by the township. The township would have floated a bond and that bond would have been paid for with the open space tax. The bond repayment could have been structured so that the  annual payments would not have exceed the annual amount of open space tax collected. 

In 2006, our Township Committee and Administrator decided to use regular tax dollars and borrowing, to pay for the properties that were purchased as part of the open space plan, and that were to be paid for with the existing 1¢ open space tax and grants.
Are you starting to get the picture as to why your local taxes are increasing so dramatically!!

More on this in the future,
The Edgewater Park Reporter

No comments: