EDITORIAL: Say ‘yes’ to increase for open space

EDITORIAL Increasing open space could could wind up saving more money in the end.

   Open space is a valuable commodity in central New Jersey and the Monroe Township Council knows it.
   That’s why the council is asking residents to approve an increase in the township open space tax on Tuesday.
   It’s a request we think voters should approve, especially because the result would be a greener, more desirable town in which to live.
   Monroe voters proved two years ago that preserving open space is something they are willing to pay for when they approved the township’s first open space trust fund. The 2002 referendum put the open space tax rate at 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Under that rate, the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $153,900 pays just $23 per year to fund open space purchases.
   Since then, the township has raised about $400,000 to be used by the township to keep green areas green. In addition, the township has acquired — in conjunction with the state and the county — more than 2,000 acres for open space and farmland preservation in recent years.
   But Monroe has lofty goals. The township would like to see 50 percent of its 26,752 total acres set aside for preservation. Right now, 11.8 percent of the total acreage is open. The township currently has 28 properties totaling 693 acres targeted for preservation.
   Approving next week’s referendum would go a long way toward meeting that commendable goal.
   The proposed increase of 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation would mean the owner of the average township home would pay $38.48 a year, a $15.48 increase.
   It may not sound like much, but the increase could mean $315,000 more available for the purchase of open space and farmland.
   That money can be used in conjunction with the county and state on larger purchases, as well as give the township more flexibility in the size and value of land it would like to acquire.
   Monroe already boasts one of the lowest tax rates in the county, and increasing it by just 1 cent could pay huge dividends.