LETTER: A Fleecing in Barnegat
Barnegat has collected almost $2 million for open space
This letter was written to the Patch by Barnegat taxpayer Jake Taylor.
Since December 2003, Barnegat Township has collected almost $2 million for the Barnegat Open Space Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
A penny has been added to every Barnegat residents' real property valuation for a total of $1,919,493.20, based on a referendum vote in 2001. There was an assumption that these funds were to be used, according to the original ordinance introduced at the committee meeting in 2001: "of acquiring, developing or maintaining recreational or conservation of properties, acquiring or preserving historical properties," and "acquiring farmland for perservation or for payment." In reality, it appears this money has been used for everything but acquiring and preserving open space.
With the partial exception of the Girkin property, now called Meadowlands Park, not one cent of this money was apparently spent on purchasing open space. The Girkin property was partly paid with $800,000 from a Green Acres Grant and $400,000 from open space funds.
By attaching the PDF of the complete list of this reckless misappropriation of your tax dollars, I would like you, the taxpayer and owners of this fund, to see how you have been duped into believing it is for your own good.
From 2009 to 2012, barges for July 4 and Pirates Day, totaling $28,5000 were charged to this fund, $5,171 have been used for salt for roads, $9,774 for bleachers, $997 for Barnegat banners, and $1,244 for landscaping of town hall. How does any of this correlate to the original ordinance that the committee approved, or the referendum that was approved?
In a letter to Thomas Neff, at the Division of Local Government Services, following a request by me to look into this matter, Township Administrator David Breeden answered, "The open space funding could be utilized for the acquisition, developing, improvement, upkeep and maintentance of the following four items: 1. open space, 2. recreation, 3. historic preservation, and 4. farmland preservation," and goes on to cite a study, commissioned by the Township, that "Barnegat was deficient with regards to recreational related facilities." I fail to see how banners and barges address that deficiency.
Much of the open space funds were spent on improvements to already-owned football and softball fields on Lower Shore Road.
Some questions to contemplate: Why hasn't the interest from the money in trust appropriations been applied to the fund? Why has the entire Open Space Committee resigned?
I hope by letting you see for yourself this spending, controlled only by the five elected committee people and needing no authorization except their approval, you can form an opinion on this matter, and as in the past, let your voices be heard.
We currently stand among the highest tax rates in Ocean County and this type of spending is a large reason why. We must all work together to cut waste and see to it funds are used for the original intent - to purchase open space.
I hope this information is helpful to all and your concern reaches the hands that control our tax dollars.