MIDDLETOWN – The Township Committee has introduced an ordinance that will, if adopted, implement a voter-approved increase to the annual collection rate of the Middletown Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The ordinance was introduced during the committee’s April 5 meeting and is scheduled for a public hearing and a possible vote for adoption during the committee’s April 19 meeting.
Meetings of the governing body are being conducted in a virtual manner during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instructions on how to view the meeting are posted on Middletown’s website.
During the Nov. 3, 2020 election, residents voted overwhelmingly to increase the local open space tax rate. Mayor Tony Perry said 67% of the residents who voted on the public question cast a “yes” vote.
Days after the vote, Perry said, “I want to thank the voters for an overwhelming victory” on the public question. “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.”
During the April 5 meeting, Perry said the $1.1 million in tax revenue that will be generated on an annual basis through the increase in the open space tax rate would only be used for the acquisition of additional open space in the community.
“Today, with the introduction of this ordinance, we begin to implement the people’s will,” Perry said. “Our goals are to preserve land, enhance our parks and save our historic sites.”
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, Middletown’s voters approved an increase in the open space tax rate to 3 cents per $100 of equalized valuation.
The ordinance that was introduced by the committee on April 5 will implement the increase in the open space tax rate upon its adoption.
In 2020, the average home in Middletown was 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 last year.
Raising the open space tax rate to 3 cents per $100 of valuation, as proposed in the ordinance, 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 generates revenue that supports the Middletown Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
Municipal officials have said the money that is raised by the open space tax helps to pay for the acquisition of land and improvements to open space and parkland properties.
Speaklng about open space funding, Perry previously said, “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 (of additional open space revenue) these acquisitions are now possible.”