– The Newark City Council today passed a resolution authorizing a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve an Open Space Trust Fund that would generate $1.1 million annually to acquire, develop and maintain parks, and neighborhood playgrounds and ballfields in Newark.
The resolution, which passed by a 6-0 vote, was sponsored by Acting Council President Anibal Ramos Jr.
“I am pleased that this resolution passed unanimously and voters will have an opportunity in November to vote on this question,” Ramos said. “I am confident that voters will overwhelmingly say ‘yes’ to creating a stable source of funding to acquire parkland and repair our neighborhood parks.”
Ramos noted that all 21 counties in the state and more than 200 municipalities in New Jersey have established voter-approved open space trust funds.
“Our parks are vital to the quality of life of our citizens and we need a dedicated stream of funding to acquire parkland as well as maintain it for the enjoyment of all of our residents,” Ramos said.
Scott Dvorak, Newark Program Director with The Trust for Public Land, applauded the Newark City Council for today’s vote.
“I applaud the City Council for their commitment to improving Newark's parks for the benefit of all resident's of the City,” Dvorak said. “This measure will help to repair, improve and maintain existing parks, and provide more neighborhoods with safe, quality parks and playgrounds for their families to enjoy.”
Ramos noted that the city’s master plan adopted in 2012 calls for expanding Newark’s park system and improving parks and greenways throughout the city. The plan specifically lists a set of priority capital projects for city-owned parks with estimated costs of $75 million, as well as a goal to identify funding for the operation and maintenance of any new park or facility.
The Open Space Trust Fund would cost $20 annually to the owner of a property assessed at $200,000.
“This is a small price to pay for what we would get in return for our investment,” Ramos said. “We can leverage the dollars we raise locally to receive matching funds through the State Green Acres Program as well as county and private funds.”
The question that would be placed on the ballot reads as follows:
“Shall the City of Newark establish an Open Space Trust Fund to be funded through an annual levy of one cent per $100 of assessed valuation of real property for the purposes of acquiring, developing and maintaining lands for recreation and conservation, including providing safe, clean and accessible parks; repairing and improving existing parks; creating neighborhood playgrounds and playfields for youth sports; and for the payment of any debt service incurred by the City for these purposes, with full public disclosure and review of all expenditures?”
Approving this referendum will authorize the City of Newark to establish an Open Space Trust Fund to acquire, develop and maintain lands for conservation and recreation purposes in order to provide safe, clean and accessible parks, neighborhood playgrounds and playfields for youth sports throughout the City. A “yes” vote will permit the City to establish an Open Space Trust Fund with an annual levy of one cent per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the purposes above, including debt service on any bonds issued for these purposes. Funds raised by the measure could only be used for these purposes and would be matched by state, county and private sources. Full public disclosure and review of all expenditures would be required.