By Shelly Kennedy
MONMOUTH COUNTY VOTERS: VOTE NO & NO on the public questions. One disallows income from legal settlements to be used to service general debt… the other INCREASES debt by allowing yet another bond issue for the “cause of the week”.
Here are the two state questions.
Doing a quick analysis: If income from environmental law suits is “locked” into spending then it cannot be used to service debt. So one wonders if we should use any kind of “lock box” fiscal management practices at all. If you agree that funds collected should be flexible in order to be used for various items in the legislature’s annual budget, then the answer would be “no”. Priorities change year by year. There may be a shortfall in one revenue source that needs to be balanced by another to meet legal obligatory debt. Committing funds to a budget item in a prior year where it is unavailable to service debt in the future is not a good idea at all.
The second question relates to a bond issue to borrow more money. Why would we want to do this, when Jersey is pretty much drowning in debt now? So this question also is not such a good idea. While everyone likes libraries, we have many at the municipal and county level already, as well as in schools. Recently, library usage has been decreasing. So, borrowing money for libraries when we already have many, and when use of physical library services is on down turn, and needs elsewhere are really more critical, is not a good idea, either. It also sends a flag that planning should be more dynamic to factor into account recent trends before making requests of taxpayers for large projects of unknown future value.
For Monmouth County voters: The Open Space question for Monmouth County increases the tax reserve rate from 1.5 to 2.75 per $100, which would make those tax dollars unavailable for other county expenditures. In Monmouth County, there already is a great deal of open space. Monmouth County has an ambitious plan to preserve 20,000 acres. The county page states that 16,557 acres of open space (and an additional 2,792 acres of easements), a total of 19,349 acres, already has been preserved as part of the Monmouth County Park System. The goal is 20,000 acres. It would seem that Monmouth County has substantially met its goal and no raise in the collection rate is needed to buy the remaining plan of 651 acres. Remember too that “open space” and parks are not maintenance-free, and require caretaking and programs which translate directly into tax dollars. Open Space does not contribute to ratables. More open space means higher taxes on each remaining ratable property, like your home.
Consider also that each town in Monmouth County also has open space, as does the state. When you consider them together, many more than 20,000 acres are already dedicated to open space in Monmouth County. Since none of this contributes to ratables, but instead costs taxpayers money, we should carefully consider the cost and benefit of any further increase in open space.
Essentially, Monmouth County voters, please consider voting “no” on all three questions since the benefit of each is questionable, and each inevitably means “higher taxes”. To avoid these potential tax increases you should vote NO on all 3.
Shelly Kennedy is a resident of Atlantic Highlands