Reason Against Open Space Tax

Union County wants the tax in perpetuity primarily for their own budget but, on a broader level, the Reason Foundation in a 2014 policy brief wondered why, with Pension Costs Soaring, Should New Jersey Commit Billions to More Open Space Preservation?

The New Jersey Legislature is currently considering a bill—Senate Concurrent Resolution 84 (SCR84)—that would amend the state Constitution to dedicate six percent of the state’s Corporation Business Tax revenues from FY2016 to FY2045 for the purpose of open space, farmland and historic preservation, and it would send this amendment on the ballot for voter approval in the next general election (presumably November 2014).

The new funding stream would be used to cover loans or grants for: (1) preserving land for recreation and conservation purposes under the state’s Green Acres program (as well as to expand the “Blue Acres” program to purchase lands in flood-prone areas, or lands that buffer such properties, and demolish all structures and improvements thereon); (2) preserving farmland; (3) preserving historic properties; and (4) covering the administrative costs associated with these efforts.

Yet the state government already owns nearly 15 percent of New Jersey’s total land area outright and, altogether, it has set aside nearly one-third of its total land area as protected open space, according to state figures. That is on par with the amount of total state land area already developed.

It is unclear why additional land preservation is needed when a significant portion of the state is already off-limits to development. Nor is it clear why there is a rush to lock in three decades of massive funding for land preservation when far higher spending priorities—primarily, rapidly rising government retiree pension and debt service costs—loom.

Look at how county Open Space taxes are being spent now and the answer becomes obvious.

New Jersey (and Union County) will steal the money raised for whatever purposes they please.  They would put a constitutional amendment to Preserve Cuddly Bunnies on the ballot as long as it meant more money to spend and they were allowed to interpret that “covering the administrative costs associated with these efforts” line as broadly as some counties have.

Based on recent budget data sheets put into a spreadsheet of expenditures at most 42% of county Open Space spending ($76.7 million out of a total $182.1 million in 2013) is being used to acquire open space.  Among the other uses:

  • $10 million to pay salaries ($6.7 of which for only three counties – Burlington, Essex, and Union).
  • $31 million for Other Expenses
  • $57 million for Debt Payments (which for Union County are made up numbers).

If New Jersey is becoming a “model for America” on pension reform then when it comes to misappropriating Open Space Trust Fund money Union County is becoming a model for New Jersey.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bpaterson on November 1, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I find fault with the union county open space ballot question #3 wording: they do talk about assessment and how much per avg $100k assessed home will be billed. What they point out that people don’t understand is that the assessment is based on “total County equalized real property valuation”. That equates pretty much to the going prices of present home sales. What you see on your tax bill is your own towns assessment not the county’s. This may mislead people into thinking the tax bill is smaller. Example: In Garwood, my home Garwood assessment is $95,000 (done back in the 80’s). So I think maybe $15/year. But my true county value is around $300k so the dollar figure the county uses as an example is 3x what I am thinking= $45 dollars. In addition, we find that fanwood residents also have their own open space ballot questions, pretty dumb of fanwood to have both together creating double taxation. Fanwood is trying an end run around their budget like the county since Fanwood actually admits they don’t have any open space to buy. Politicians trying to scam extra tax money out of us beleaguered families.

    Reply

  2. Posted by readslikeamofiabook on November 1, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Or you can go “Touch a Big Truck” cause that’s a banner floating on Wood Avenue in Linden by Union County. UNFUCKING REAL. I can’t even anymore. County government is ONE BIG WASTE OF MONEY.

    Reply

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