Shall the Township Committee of the Township of Hillsborough modify and expand the uses and purposes of the Open Space Trust Fund to allow for not more than 20% of the Open Space Trust Fund tax collected in any one year to be utilized for the development and, or improvement of park and recreation facilities that are located on property within the Open Space and Park Inventory for recreation, conservation and general open space purposes?
Q: What are the voters being asked to approve?
A: Voters are being asked to allow the Township Committee to allocate up to 20% of future Open Space Tax collections, beginning in 2014, to the development of open space properties for recreational purposes.
Q: Will approval of this Referendum increase the Open Space Tax?
A: No. Approval of this Referendum by the voters will not increase the Open Space Tax.
Q: Will approval of this Referendum prevent the Township from preserving open space and farmland?A: No. The Township will still be able to preserve open space and farmland with existing and future Open Space Funds collected.
Q: Will approval of this Referendum affect the use of funds currently in the Township's Open Space Trust Fund?
A: No. The over $8 million of unencumbered funds in the Open Space Trust Fund will remain solely dedicated to preservation of open space and farmland.
Q. What about the current GSA depot project?
A: The over $8 million of unencumbered funds in the Open Space Trust Fund does not include the funds already encumbered for the GSA property acquisition and clean-up.
Q. How much does each resident pay into the Open Space fund each year?
A. 2.8 cents per $100 dollars of assessed value.
Q: Will it become mandatory every year that up to 20% of the incoming open space tax revenues be used for recreational development?
A: This is not a mandatory allocation. Approval of the Referendum will allow an amount up to and not to exceed 20% in any given year beginning in 2014 to be allocated to open space development for recreational purposes.
Q: How much money is involved?
A: The Township's open space tax proceeds are about $1.55 million per year. Approval of this Referendum will authorize the Township Committee to allocate up to 20% of this amount or approximately up to $310,000 to open space development for recreational purposes.
Q: Why has the Township Committee put this question on the ballot?
A: Over the years, the Township has acquired and preserved many acres of property with Open Space Trust Funds. The current municipal budget does not provide sufficient funding for the recreational development of this property for use by the public. Approval of this Referendum would allow the Township Committee to allocate up to 20% of future Open Space Tax collections to the recreational development of this property for use by the public. The Township Committee wants the voters to decide if this should be done.
Q: Will the Township Committee use the funds to pay for maintenance costs?
A: No. The funds will be used for recreational development projects. Maintenance costs come from the general municipal budget in a separate Parks operating budget line item. The Parks and Recreation Department currently maintains over 200 acres of open space/public parks. There are 9 dedicated staff members assigned to the daily maintenance of this land. The maintenance includes baseball, softball, football and soccer fields, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, ponds, picnic areas, nature trails and two pavilions.
Q: If the Referendum is approved, does the current Township Committee have plans on what will be done with the available allocated funds?
A: If the Referendum is approved, the current Township Committee plans to conduct a needs assessment to determine what, if any, recreational development should take place. The Township Committee would then decide on addressing any identified recreational development needs. Somerset County followed a similar process years ago and has used a portion of open space tax funds for the recreational development of open space property for use by the public.
Q. What has the County used their funds for in recent years?
A: By way of example, the County purchased new picnic shelters at Colonial Park and Duke Island Park, new restroom facilities at the Green Knoll Tennis complex, trail extensions and new construction throughout the park system, new kiosks throughout the county park system, bridge replacements at Colonial Park and North Branch Park and Master Planning for a variety of locations, including Belle Mead Depot, Natirar Park and Lord Stirling Park.