Archive for the ‘Open Space’ Category

UCCF 4/19/18: Open Space Theft – 2018

With the only response being:

To which I respond:
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More Open Space Tax Theft

The theft continues as money raised by the Open Space tax is diverted to the county budget:

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STA on Union County Taxes

In their latest blog piece the Summit Taxpayers’ Association (STA) asks whose fault is the alarming increase in government spending and taxation in Union County.

The question is not directly answered (though I have an answer) but STA, through research of budget documents, does make some salient points, including:

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Open Space Tax Theft – 2017

Tonight’s freeholder meeting, two weeks before an election, will be packed with politicians, over-sized checks and preening for photo-ops.

Check presentations will be made by the Board to the various grant recipients of the following grant programs: 2017 Kids Recreational Trust Grants; 2017 Greening Union County Grants; and the 2017 Preserving Union County Grants.

With these corresponding resolutions on the agenda:

2017-885: Authorizing the County Manager to award Kids Recreation Trust Fund 2017 grants to twenty (20) recipients in the County of Union in accordance with the Kids Recreation Trust grant criteria, as stated in said grant application, through the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, in an amount not to exceed $1,000,000.
2017-886: Authorizing the County Manager to award Greening Union County 2017 grants to (16) municipalities in the County of Union in accordance with the Greening Union County grant criteria, through the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, in an amount not to exceed $100,301.75.
2017-887: Authorizing the County Manager to award Preserve Union County 2017 grants to eleven (11) historic sites throughout the County of Union, in an amount not to exceed $300,000; in conjunction with and for the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

The most pathetic aspect of this sick ritual is that, not only is it county officials giving municipalities back their own tax money, but that money being given back is only a fraction of what the county collects through the Open Space Trust Fund tax with the majority of the money going for the county’s budget these days, as we noted back in 2012.

Here are the updated numbers on the Open Space Trust Fund Tax Theft:

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UCCF 3/9/17: Open Space Board

2017·239: Resolution amending Resolution 2008-46, a resolution amending the by-laws of the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Public Advisory Committee, to reflect changes as per Union County Ordinance 755-2013 and the proper listing of the “labor” designation as per Resolution 110A-01.

2017·240: Re-appointing the following members to the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund: Arthur Kobitz, Charles Eke, Michael DelSordi (public members) and Rose Checcio (democratic official) for a term beginning January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2019 and appointing Edward O’MaUey (public member) and Maria Carvalho (environmentalist) and Richard Capac (Business) for a term beginning January 1, 2015 through December 31,2017.

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.

Open Space Trust Fund Theft Question

It will be on the ballot as a Public Question #3 on November 8:

Do you want to be taxed $10 million in perpetuity so Union County can continue to use 90% of that tax money for its own budget?

Though on the ballot it will read this way:

Approval of this referendum will authorize the extension of the “Union County Open Space Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.” The revenue produced shall be used exclusively for the acquisition, development and maintenance of lands within the County for recreation and conservation purposes, and the preservation and acquisition of historic properties in the County for preservation purposes. The revenue shall come from an annual levy of 1-1/2 cents per $100 of total County equalized real property valuation. For example, the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 would contribute $15 annually to the Trust fund. The amount of the levy will not change; this is the same amount that the voters approved in 2000. This measure also allows the County to use Trust Fund monies to pay debt service on indebtedness incurred for Trust fund projects, other than maintenance. Utilization of the Trust Fund’s resources shall be in accordance with the open space, recreation and historic preservation plans prepared and adopted by the County.