Open Space Trust Fund Raid Details

The Evidence:

There have been $68,466,428 in Open Space Trust Fund (OSTF) purchases with the $8,020,044 spent for the St. Agnes Church Property in Clark on December, 2007 being the last major purchase.

Revenue from taxes and grants was more than sufficient to make those purchases however the county bonded for $39,110,207 purportedly to make those purchases.  But the audited revenue figures of the OTSF do NOT show that bond money coming into the OTSF though county budget figures do  show $28,695,202 through 2012 going out from the OSTF to repay those bonds.

The question:

The response:

Silence from the county but people are noticing.  At the May 1, 2012 Summit Council Meeting it was reported that there was an hour-long discussion on withholding the Open Space tax during which Thomas Garvey, president of the Summit Taxpayers Associations (STA), made these remarks:

The purpose of my remarks tonight is to make a specific call for action regarding the Union County tax levy as follows:

Where as;

Union County spending is completely out of control as evidenced by their ignoring the governors 2% nominal spending cap, increasing Summit residents tax levy by 10.94%, voting life time health benefits to employees which will cost taxpayers over $50MM (estimate). These same benefits are not available to most taxpayers or to our own city workers. For some perspective, the average NJ resident pays $1,802 in state income tax and the average Summit resident pays more than twice this amount or $3,999 in Union County tax alone.

Union County borrowing is completely out of control as evidenced by growing County debt which now totals over $556 MM and is up $154.7MM and 38% over the past 5 years. This debt does not include an additional $150 MM in lease obligations which require payments of $12.9MM per year.

Union County accountability is completely out of control as evidenced by their ignoring 3 months of personal appearances and petitions from members of Summit City Council and providing no audit-able documentation or receipts of any kind to support tax levy demands totaling almost $32 MM per year.

Therefore, the Summit Taxpayers Association requests that Summit City Council pass a resolution calling for the withholding and escrow of 1/2 of the Union County Open Space Tax (approx $521 M) levied for 2012. The argument for this request is outlined above but is also grounded in the belief the Open Space fund and tax levy are currently being used for purposes other than originally intended when approved. We also recommend Summit Council approve money to be used for a legal defense of this action.

Mr. Garvey continues in an email to the members of the STA:

After my remarks Summit City Council voted 5-1 to continue to pay the County Open Space tax.  Several council members spoke openly that their vote was based on “preliminary” legal advice but further legal review is warranted.  I believe we have not heard the last of the legal debate to withhold and escrow the Union County Open Space tax.

The STA anticipates future litigation of the Open Space tax and ensuing discovery of facts will broaden resulting in disclosure of even larger acts of fiscal irresponsibility by Union County.  Taxpayers can regain control of our County Government but to do so we must be willing to …….. follow the money!



3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by G. Albritton on May 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    By bonding many of these OSTF purchases during the past few years, as recently as 2011, the County committed itself to pay debt service in the tens of millions of dollars long AFTER the expiration of the voters’ 20 year authorization for the tax in 2020. Unless the County’s voters are fools enough to reauthorize this grossly misused tax 8 years from now, then the funds needed to fund the left-over OSTF debt service will need to come out of the County’s tax take, resulting in higher County tax increases, if that can be imagined, for many years after 2020.

    The only ways to avoid this absurd outcome would be for the County to STOP raiding the OSTF now for unrelated spending, and for the County’s taxpayers to wake-up and to insist that all Trust funds now held and all OSTF taxes paid in the coming years be dedicated to a sinking fund, to assure that these funds will be available to pay these long-term OSTF debt obligations now and for more than a decade AFTER 2020.


  2. […] Open Space tax (which they routinely cut) to acquire open space. Compare that to Union County which consistently raids their Open Space ‘Trust’ Fund for their regular budget and plans to continue in […]


  3. […] Open Space tax (which they routinely cut) to acquire open space. Compare that to Union County which consistently raids their Open Space ‘Trust’ Fund for their regular budget and plans to continue in […]


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