Do Voters Want to Preserve and Protect Open Spaces? It's Their Call.


Are you sad that some of our parks are in need of repairs or upgrades? Unhappy that open spaces get purchased by developers instead of by the city where they could be preserved as open spaces? Do you wish that the city had money for updating fields, basketball courts, and playgrounds? An Open Space Trust Fund could address all of these things and more.

Several months ago, The Clifton Times reported on City Council discussions regarding an Open Space Fund. As we reported at the time, “An Open Space Fund can be used for the acquisition, development, repair, and maintenance of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, and for farmland preservation purposes. It can also be used to acquire, develop, repair and maintain land, structures, and objects for historic preservation purposes.” Maintaining an Open Space Fund will also make Clifton eligible for more grant money, increasing the benefits of this small tax.

Some examples of how such a fund could be used in Clifton include:

  • Building new facilities like dog parks, new playgrounds, a sprayground (playground with water features)
  • Upgrading city-owned fields and tennis and basketball courts.
  • Repairing and renovating historic buildings
  • Updating playground equipment to be more modern, safe, and inclusive by meeting ADA compliance regulations.

Of the 16 municipalities in Passaic County, about half of them already have an Open Space Fund. Councilman Joe Kolodziej, when he brought the topic up in July, proposed that voters be invited to make the decision on whether or not Clifton would collect a special tax for an Open Space Fund. After nearly failing to get the required votes, Council eventually approved the question to go on the ballot. Early voters and those who vote by mail have likely already seen the question. You can view a sample ballot here; the public question is on the second page. Every registered voter in Clifton now has the power to make this decision - does Clifton want to preserve, restore, and update our open spaces…or is that not a priority?

So - how will this affect you, the taxpayer?

The city is asking for a penny per $100 assessed value. For the average assessed home, that amounts to about $1.50 per month.

In order to calculate the exact increase for your home, follow these simple steps:

1. Determine your home’s assessed value. Note that this is a very different number than the market value. You can find this number on your tax card, which every homeowner should have received in January.

You can also find it by visiting THIS PAGE. Where it says, “Search by Location,” enter your home address and click “search.” (You may need to use an abbreviation for Street, Place, Avenue, etc.) That search will produce a chart. “Total Value” is the number you need. You’ll see that it is a much lower number than typical sale prices.

2. Compute the tax increase. Divide your assessed value by 100. Multiply that new number by .01. The result is the dollar amount by which your municipal taxes would increase per year if an Open Space Trust Fund is supported by voters.

Here’s an example: a particular home is assessed at $180,000. If it went up for sale, the three-bedroom home would likely have a price of at least $400,000. Using the above formula and its assessed value, the open space tax burden for that house would come out to $18 for the year.

The creation of an Open Space Fund is in the hands of the voters. They will have to decide if the benefits of this fund are worth the $18 a year (on average) that it will cost each household. If voters understand that a small investment now will lead to a better future for the city, it has a good chance of passing.

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