Growing up on Long Island, I’ll admit we all thought calling New Jersey “The Garden State” was some kind of joke. The joke was on me, though, and now that I live in Salem County I know that this really is beautiful country. The Philadelphia suburbs, however, are rolling over Gloucester County and will soon lead to massive development here.
The people of Salem County approved a 2 cent property tax increase in 2002 which was used to borrow 9 million dollars to preserve farmland. The state has made an even bigger committment to farmland preservation, and indeed the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture says our state leads the nation in the percentage of preserved farmland. The state has a guide to how the program works.
Over 20,000 acres have already been protected, but there is more than could be done. Salem County now has the opportunity to act! Today’s Sunbeam reports that the Democratic controlled Board of Freeholders unanimously approved putting another 2 cent increase before the voters in the fall :
The current 2-cent tax generates $800,000 a year, Public Information Officer and Human Resource Manager, Robin Weinstein said.
He said the 2-cent tax was approved in 2002, went into affect in 2003 and in 2005 the county bonded $9 million to use for farmland preservation.
The $800,000 each year pays for the bond, Weinstein said.
“The $9 million is almost depleted because of our aggressive efforts with preservation,” Weinstein said.
If county residents approve the 4-cent tax, the county has the possibility to bond another $9 million for preservation, Weinstein said.
I support this effort. Farmland preservation needs to happen now based on what I see driving north, and with what still are low long-term interest rates available the bond option seems favorable. Our local economy depends on farming. While free-market Republican-type economists would probably prefer a world of “free” trade where America’s farms, like our factories, go out of business, I can’t imagine that is a wise long-term course for our national security. Fresh food tastes better and is healthier anyway. An extra 40 dollars a year on a $200,000 house is a small price to pay.