Freeholders support state preservation funding

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 MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – The Cape May County Freeholders are backing a plan that would establish sustainable state funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey. 

NJ Keep It Green recently praised the freeholders for adopting such a resolution on May 28 in support of sustainable funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

“The passage of this resolution by the Cape May County Freeholders demonstrates that support for a dedicated source of open space funding continues to grow across the state,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “With no new money available, New Jersey is at risk of having decades of successful preservation efforts grind to a halt, jeopardizing critical lands that protect our water supply, guard against flood and storm damage, and generate billions of dollars in economic benefits. We must act now before it is too late.”

Officials point out some ways Cape May County has benefited with preservation funding:

More than 315 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve nearly 44,000 acres of open space.

Green Acres funding helped acquire 164 acres known as the DeSoi Singer property in Lower Township. The property is within the lower 10 kilometers of the Cape May Peninsula, which is a critical stopover for migratory birds.

State funds supported the acquisition of the former Ponderlodge Golf Course in Lower Township, which led to the creation of the 253-acre Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area.

More than 2,600 acres were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.

“Cape May County has a long history of supporting investments in open space and farmland and in protecting our natural resources, which draw tens of thousands of visitors every year,” said Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton. “Open space programs such as Green Acres and Blue Acres help protect New Jersey’s coastal communities from damaging storms and provide necessary funding to help us recover from events like Hurricane Sandy.”  

NJ Keep It Green supports legislation sponsored by Sens. Bob Smith, Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Jim Whelan and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer that would ask voters to approve dedicating a small percentage of annual state sales tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.

The percentage of sales tax revenues to be dedicated under the proposal is one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7 percent sales tax. This is expected to generate more than $200 million a year, which is less than 1 percent of the state budget, according to an announcement.

The dedication would not begin until 2015 to allow more time for sales-tax revenues to grow and accommodate this without impacting other needs.  Sales tax revenues have been growing and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward.

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.  

New Jersey voters have long been supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, passing 13 out of 13 ballot measures since 1961. Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. 

An NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

In addition to Cape May County, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren counties have passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 180 park and conservation advocates working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites.

NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007 and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, see www.njkeepitgreen.org .


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