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Middletown mayor thanks voters for approving increase to open space tax rate

MIDDLETOWN – Mayor Tony Perry has thanked voters in Middletown who cast a “yes” vote on a public question that proposed an increase in the local open space tax rate.

The public question was on the Nov. 3 ballot and during a Township Committee meeting on Nov. 16, Perry said although the results of the election had not been certified as of that date, the overwhelming majority of “yes” votes assured the passage of the question.

As of Nov. 18, according to results posted on the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office “Monmouth County Votes” web page, 27,789 voters (66.41%) had voted “yes” and 14,054 voters (33.59%) had voted “no” on the public question.

Approximately 99% of the election night mail-in ballots have been processed; approximately 53% of the ADA machine ballots have been processed; and approximately 94% of the provisional ballots that were cast on Election Day have been processed, according to the county clerk’s website.

“I want to thank the voters for an overwhelming victory” on the public question, Perry said. “We are now able to move forward (on open space preservation) … this (decision) gives us added dedicated revenue to preserve farmland, to protect our beaches … This is a big win for our township.”

The mayor said many individuals and groups in Middletown came together “for bipartisan support of the ballot question.”

By way of history on Middletown’s open space preservation efforts, in 1998, voters in the municipality approved the creation and funding of a local open space trust fund with a tax rate of 1 cent per $100 of equalized valuation.

In 2002, voters supported an increase in the open space tax rate to 2 cents per $100 of equalized valuation.

On Nov. 3, municipal officials asked Middletown’s voters to consider an increase in the open space tax rate to 3 cents per $100 of equalized valuation.

In 2020, the average home in Middletown is assessed at about $448,000. With an open space tax rate of 2 cents per $100 of valuation, the owner of that home paid about $90 into the open space trust fund this year.

Raising the open space tax rate to 3 cents per $100 of valuation, as proposed in the ballot question, will increase that homeowner’s payment into the open space trust fund to about $135 on a $448,000 assessment in 2021.

The open space tax rate that property owners pay generates revenue that supports the Middletown Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Because the proposed increase has been approved by voters, the Township Committee will hold a public hearing to determine the allocation of the increased proceeds generated by the open space tax to the open space trust fund.

Municipal officials have said money that is raised by Middletown’s open space tax helps to pay for the acquisition of and improvements to open space and parkland properties.

Perry said, “I am grateful to the voters who supported this incredibly important initiative. We all want to ensure our children and grandchildren inherit the Middletown we enjoy today. Discussions for purchasing well-known properties in every section of Middletown are already underway and with this approval these acquisitions are now possible.”

In the race for two three-year terms on the Township Committee, Republicans Patricia Snell and Ryan Clarke are headed for victories.

As of Nov. 18, Snell had 26,154 votes and Clarke had 25,704 votes to lead Democrats Marguerite Stocker, with 16,049 votes, and Brian Penschow, with 15,590 votes. Snell was the only incumbent in the race.

During the Nov. 16 committee meeting, Perry congratulated Snell and Clarke for winning the seats on the governing body and he thanked all of the candidates for “stepping up” to run in the election to serve Middletown.

Perry thanked Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore for his 12 years of service on the governing body. Fiore’s term will end on Dec. 31.

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