Posted Friday, March 1st, 2013

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Feb. 27 approved a measure, which for the sixth year in a row, reduces the tax rate used to fund the county’s Preservation Trust Fund.

The dedicated tax this year will be set at 1 1/8 cents per $100 of assessed property value, a reduction of 3/8 cents and down from last year’s level of 1 ½ cents.

The Morris County Park Improvement Tax will receive the first ¼ cent or approximately $2.3 million. This special tax collection was approved by Morris County voters via referendum in 1998.

It is estimated the reduction will save approximately $4 million this year while still generating approximately $10 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 and finance the county’s new Flood Mitigation Program.

“I am pleased that we are able to provide relief to county taxpayers, while still maintaining the viability of this program, said Freeholder Ann Grossi, the freeholder liaison to the Preservation Trust.

The county this year will begin a study of its entire preservation program to better determine its future direction.

“We have asked staff to take a look at all of the components of this program, from open space and historic preservation to water protection and flood mitigation,” said Freeholder John Krickus. “This way we can have a better understanding of what our needs will be in the years ahead.”

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 six programs: Morris County Park Commission, Morris County M.U.A., Farmland Preservation, Open Space Preservation, Flood Mitigation Program and Historic Preservation.

Since the awarding of open space grants began in 1994, nearly 23,000 acres of open space in Morris County have been funded for preservation, slightly larger than the size of Mount Olive Township.

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

Already, 22 residential properties in Denville and Parsippany have been approved for acquisition, with 57 other flood acquisition projects underway in Parsippany, Lincoln Park, Boonton, Riverdale and Pequannock.

The county’s Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund has helped to preserve 119 farms totaling more than 7,300 acres, while historic sites in 32 towns in the county have been awarded historic preservation grants since that program started in 2003.