July 7, 2020
Dear Delaware Township Residents –
At our Township Committee meeting last week, we began a discussion on our Open Space Tax referendum. As you likely know, our community has voted twice to support this tax as a way to help preserve and protect our beautiful landscapes and retain our rural and natural character. The purpose of this discussion is not an attempt to slow down the great strides that have been made through collaborative efforts to keep Delaware Township an open and great place to live. The Township Committee has only begun to ask about potentially utilizing a portion of those dollars to help MAINTAIN the priceless Open Space that we have here. Currently, our policy is to only use those funds for ACQUISITION of property. However, with the commitment to acquisition comes a responsibility to maintain, for both safety and aesthetics.
To be clear, the Township Committee does not make this decision. It would be put out to a vote of the citizens to see what the will of the people is on making such a change.
We bring these items to our agenda to facilitate transparency and an open, civil discussion. While we received some opposing feedback at last week’s Township Committee Meeting, we also hear thoughts on this issue from residents who support the idea of using a portion of the fund for maintenance.
The Township Committee wants to expand the discussion to every resident of the township; the entire community. As a governing body, our regular meetings are the only opportunities for us to discuss pressing matters effecting our township.
To provide a real-world example, please consider the following. Under current direction, if the tennis courts at Dilts Park had to be resurfaced, the Township Committee would put that item into our long-range budget plan and use new tax dollars from an annual budget to pay for the work to be done. Since Dilts Park is one of our Open Space locations, a change in the wording of the Open Space ordinance would allow the expense on the project to utilize funds from the Open Space Tax Fund. This would give the Township the flexibility to get a job like this completed sooner, and not have it hit the current budget for the costs. So, if the project were $15,0000, that amount would not necessarily have to come from the “working budget” that the Township uses for annual services to the community. The short story is open space money would maintain open space.
In researching this discussion, we found that many of our neighboring communities (Raritan, East Amwell, West Amwell, and Hunterdon County, to name a few) allow for their Open Space funds to be used towards maintenance of Open Space locations in some capacity. It’s a forward-thinking approach to reallocate some of these tax dollars to help keep resources like parks and trails clean, safe and up to date for use by residents.
Every member of the 2020 Delaware Township Committee is committed to continuing to save our Open Spaces and preserving farmland. That is not up for debate here. In fact, just last week, we were proud to close on the acquisition of 58 new Open Space acres that were added to the Plum Brook Preserve (see link below). With this discussion, we are seeking guidance from the voters of the Township to see if there is an interest in updating the policy to include maintenance as well. One of our primary duties to the residents of the Township is the responsible management of YOUR tax dollars. If residents would like us to look back at the Open Space referendum and update it so that it aligns with the spirit of our neighboring communities and Hunterdon County’s use of Open Space funding, then we could put it out to vote here as well.
While we look forward to future acquisitions we want to show appreciation of the gifts from previous generations and respectfully maintain them. This committee will continue to support Open Space projects. We know that whether you use the Open Space throughout Delaware Township or not, the continued preservation and maintenance of these natural resources are key factors in the value of every property.
Please discuss this with other residents, and feel free to reach out to us on the Committee. As always, we welcome your feedback and encourage all to provide input to the discussion.
Mayor, Delaware Township
For information on the acquisition of the Cisek property on the Plum Brook Preserve, see the following link: