On August 12th, Camden County Freeholders approved $784,500 in grants to 21 of the 37 municipalities in the county, though they collected $7.96 million in open space taxes from County residents in 2012. The 2012 tax is in addition to the $9.2 million already in its coffers.
So where is the remaining $16.4 million, Save Jerseyans?
They transferred $795,000 to the general operating budget to cover “fringe benefits.” They pay the Camden County Improvement Authority $1.9 million a year in lease payments, overpay for services and are keeping $9.2 million for a rainy day.
Burlington County has 3,480 acres of protected open space whereas Camden County has 1,854. In 2012, Burlington plans to spend $1.8 million on development and maintenance of land, whereas Camden County is spending $3.6 million. That’s $3,901 per acre in Camden County and $518 per acre in Burlington County. Camden County is spending an outrageous 750% more per acre in expenses than Burlington County!!. How is that possible!?
Here is another example of just inappropriate behavior; in 2012, the County levied Haddon Heights with a $165.875 open space tax bill, and they graciously are giving back a $25,000 grant. Where is the remaining $140,875?
It is fair to say that the County uses Open Space tax in a similar way that the DRPA has used its economic development funds like an ATM. They use the funds to supplement the general budget, to overpay for services and to give back pennies on the dollar of what they took from a few select communities in taxes. We do need to protect and preserve our open space but we need to do it in an efficient economic manner.