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County open space fund in good shape
The Morris County freeholders have cut the county's open space tax over the last three years from 4.5 cents to 2 cents per $100 assessment. The cut of 2.5 cents decreased the amount of money raised by the tax by about $25 million.
While that's a huge number, the current 2 cent tax still raises about $20 million a year considering the county's ratable base of a little more than $100 billion. The freeholders this week awarded $17.7 million in open space grants to fund 15 projects. They include $1.4 million for preserving a farm in Chatham Township to $1.25 million to buy and preserve land along Canfield Avenue in Mine Hill to $254,000 to preserve 2 acres along Hillcrest Avenue in Morristown.
Not only did the awards not match the $20 million raised this year, the county's open space trust fund began the year with $9 million left over from previous years. That should put the county in good position to buy land in the future.
There is a motherhood and apple pie quality to buying and preserving land in New Jersey. When they support creating municipal and county open space funds via public questions, as a majority of voters do, residents are actually voting to increase their taxes. That's unusual. That can make it difficult to cut a tax for open space, and the freeholders took some heat over the move in the recent election.
However, the facts show that the freehoolders did the right thing. Slicing the open space tax by more than 50 percent over the last three years provides at least some tax relief for residents, and as we have just seen, still leaves the freeholders with a sufficient fund to buy and to preserve land.