Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

The Morris County Freeholders have unanimously approved a measure which maintains the current tax level used to fund the county’s Preservation Trust Fund.  

Based on a resolution approved by a 7-0 vote of the freeholders on Feb. 25, the dedicated tax this year will be set again at 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value and generate about $9 million. The Morris County Park Improvement Tax will receive the first one-quarter cent or approximately $2.2 million. This special tax collection was approved by Morris County voters via referendum in 1998.

The remaining three-quarter cent will generate approximately $6.7 million to help fund projects designed to preserve open space and farmland, protect the county’s drinking water resources, preserve and protect historic sites, make improvements to county-owned park facilities, assist with buyouts of flood-prone homes, and finance the county’s new Trail Development Program.

“While the freeholder board is very conscious of the need to provide tax relief to our residents, I am pleased we were able to maintain this valuable open space program which funds projects that enhance the quality of life for all of our residents and makes Morris County a premier place to live and work,’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo, who chairs the Freeholders’ budget subcommittee.   

The county this year will develop policies, rules and regulations for the new Trail Development Program.

“The new Trail Development Program will give Morris County an economic development advantage,” said Freeholder John Cesaro, liaison on open space and preservation issues. “Businesses prefer locations that offer such recreational amenities as a means to attract today’s talented workers, who desire to live and work in places that have a better quality of life. And we have been able to maintain this open space funding to enhance our quality of life with no tax increase.”

Any of the 39 municipalities in the county and qualified charitable conservancies are eligible to apply for open space and historic preservation funding. 

In addition to generating the Improvement Fund for the Morris County Park Commission, the Preservation Trust Fund provides funding for seven programs: Morris County Park Commission, Morris County M.U.A., Farmland Preservation, Open Space Preservation, Flood Mitigation Program, Historic Preservation and Trail Development.

Since the awarding of Preservation Trust Fund grants began in 1994, more than 24,000 acres in Morris County have been funded for preservation, which is greater than the size of Mount Olive Township and Mendham Borough combined.

The county’s Flood Mitigation Program, initiated in 2012, helps municipalities purchase flood-prone residential properties from willing sellers and convert them to permanently preserved open space. 

To date, 48 residential properties in Boonton, Denville, Lincoln Park, Morristown, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale have been acquired. There are 72 other flood acquisition projects underway in Boonton, Lincoln Park, Long Hill, Pequannock and Riverdale.

The county’s Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund also has helped to preserve 125 farms totaling more than 7,700 acres, while 84 historic sites in 32 towns in the county have been awarded historic preservation grants since that program started in 2003.

To learn more about preservation efforts, visit: http://www.morrisplanning.org/divisions/prestrust/