New Jersey Chapter|
Raritan Valley Group > Archive > Open Space Funding
New Jersey will be the first state in the country to be "built out", no more room for development in a couple of decades.
Approximately 20 percent of our state, or 1 million acres, still remains unprotected and developable. Preserving open space, inland waterways and natural buffers along the coast can help prevent future flood and storm damage.
In 1999, she signed into law the Garden State Preservation Trust Act, implementing a 1998 statewide referendum, in which voters approved, by a 2-1 margin, a ballot initiative to provide a stable source of funding for open space preservation.
It dedicates $98 million a year for 10 years (1999 to 2009) from state sales tax revenue to preserve open space, and authorizes the issuance of up to $1 billion in revenue bonds;
The act has the potential to add more than $1.9 billion to the more than $1.3 billion for open space preservation that New Jersey voters have approved in nine bond issues since 1981.
Each year the Trust, after retaining enough money to pay debt service on bonds, must allocate $6 million to the Historic Preservation Trust. It then must distribute 60% of the remaining proceeds to NJDEP's Green Acres open space preservation program, and 40% to the agriculture department's Farmland Preservation program.
June 1999 to June 2002
The New Jersey legislature failed to approve any of these proposals for initiatives on the November ballot.
The NJ Senate defeated their last ditch proposal.
The conservation community is split badly on this issue.
Proposals: * $400 M bond issue (S-2530) - Passed by the Senate, No action in the assembly. Opposed by "Keep it Green" Because of low interest rates debt service would only be $20-30M per year from the general fund, according to Jeff Tittle, NJ Sierra Club Chapter Director. That seems a little high given the 4-5% rate for 30 year municipal bonds. Tittle said senators voted for it to look green knowing the assembly would not pass it.
* Water consumption tax (S-813) $150M/yr
* Sales Tax $200 M (S-2529) Supported by Keep It Green Coalition. Defeated in the Senate.
Apparently "Keep it Green" has been supporting Christie to get some favors. Their opposition to the bond issue is what killed it according to Tittle. They wanted a sustainable source of funding from taxes rather than bonds. It turns out Christie didn't give them what they wanted (I can't remember what that was) anyway. njkeepitgreen.org
Bond issues for open space have traditionally passed, but the vote is getting closer. The last two bonds that voters considered passed by less than 53 percent of the vote. The 2009 referendum failed in a number of rural counties.
What I would like to know:
What I think:
It's been 40 years since I got my MBA, but here's some thoughts for what it's worth.
There is also local funding of open space.
Bernards Township has an open space tax, added to borough property bills, that brings in a total of about $500,000 each year. In July 2013, the Bernardsville Council was making plans to fund a synthetic turf field at the Polo Grounds Property with open space funds. A resolution unanimously approved by environmental commission members calls for the Borough Council to limit funding for the field to the 20 percent of the fund that by law can be spent on the development and maintenance of recreational facilities.
Sources of open space
Local municipality or County purchase
non-profit land trusts
Here are some links/contacts for the open space issue:
NJ Chapter Open Space contact: Bob Moss 973-743-5203 firstname.lastname@example.org
April-June, 2013 issue of the "New Jersey Sierran"
Map with threats to open space Dec 2012
Sept 2012 Sierra Club press release
New Jersey Keep It Green Campaign to Preserve NJ Parks, Natural Areas, Clean Water, Farmland and Historic Treasures njkeepitgreen.org
June, 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer
"A survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent support dedicating one-fifth of 1 cent of state sales-tax revenues to fund open space and preservation programs."
"With no new money for preservation programs currently available, voters should once again be given the opportunity to decide whether the state should continue these investments.
Recently, the state Senate's Environment and Energy Committee passed landmark bipartisan legislation - SCR 138, sponsored by Sens. Robert Smith (D., Middlesex), Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R., Somerset), and Jim Whelan (D., Atlantic) - that would do just that.
The legislation, to be approved by voters in November, proposes to dedicate one-fifth of 1 cent of the state's 7-cent sales tax for preserving open space, farmland, and historic areas annually for 30 years.
Based on revenues from fiscal year 2012, this plan would generate more than $200 million a year, which is the average amount that New Jersey has invested in preservation programs each year since the establishment of the Garden State Preservation Trust in 1998."
Last updated 9/2/13