Candidate Asks Where’s The Rest Of The Open Space Trust Fund Money?

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Marc A. Krauss

Marc A. Krauss

by Marc A. Krauss

The Suburban News reported on October 21st the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has approved the allocation of almost $1.4 million in funding for local community projects through the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. 

The Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund was established in 2000 by voter referendum to preserve 100 acres of open space land in Union County.  In the same article, the county boasts 300 acres have been preserved to date.

In a Union County April 10, 2007 Press Release, Freeholder Dan Sullivan, then chairman of the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund noted the County expanded its open space inventory to more than 300 acres.

From 2007 through 2013 the county has not procured more than few acres of open space land, so where has the money gone?The county website lists the latest acquisitions map with 31 purchased properties throughout Union County with no date of acquisition. The properties listed are residential homes, county buildings,other structures and several listings for a P.O. Box.

Union residents pay an additional 1.5 cents per $100 of property tax into the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. For 2013, the county collected an estimated total of $11 million from the 21 municipalities. Simply speaking, $1.4 million was returned to local municipalities through the 2013 Preserve Union County Grants ($303,016), KidsRecreation Trust Fund Grants ($1,027,534),and the Greening Union County Grants ($67,615).No new open spaces acquired in 2013 according the county website.

For example, Westfield contributed over $1 million to the 2013 Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. In return, Westfield received $88,000 for turf at Houlihan and Fay fields in the form of the Kids Recreation Trust Fund Grants in which the All-Democrat Board of Freeholders insist you put up a sign from saying they provided money for this project. In short, Westfield received less than 10% of their contributions in return. This can be said for the majority of municipalities in Union County.

So where did the other $9.6 million in 2013 Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund money go? It’s not surprising Union County residents refer to the Open Space Trust Fund as the Open Space Slush Fund.

Marc A. Krauss is a Republican running for a seat on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

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