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Jersey City moves to suspend local Open Space Trust Fund tax

Tax elimination aims to mitigate COVID-19 financial impacts

Last year, the city allocated $400,000 in Open Space Trust funds to Reservoir 3.

Jersey City aims to save taxpayers more than $1 million by proposing the elimination of the Jersey City Open Space Trust Fund tax next year.

According to Mayor Steven Fulop, the goal of the tax elimination, which will be proposed at the May 6 council meeting, is to help alleviate the hardships and economic impacts residents are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after the mayor announced he would also seek to pull a referendum question from the November ballot which would ask residents if they wanted to establish a local arts and culture trust fund through a special tax.

“My job as mayor is to protect the well being of our residents, and that includes their financial well being as we encounter unprecedented times with a lot of uncertainty ahead,” Mayor Fulop said. “We remain committed to preserving our parks and open space and will continue to do so, but right now it’s critical to relieve the financial pressures our taxpayers are currently under as much as possible.”

Open Space Trust Fund

The city’s Open Space Trust Fund was initiated after voters approved its implementation in a 2016 ballot question.

The trust fund is funded through a special tax (2 cents of every $100 of assessed property value) which is used exclusively for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of lands for recreation, conservation, and historic purposes.

Last November, Jersey City announced the first allocation of the Open Space Trust Fund with $3 million in park improvements to 15 parks in all six wards.

“We recognize the importance of our parks and open space now more than ever,” said Council President Joyce Watterman. “Every little bit helps at this point, and I think taxpayers appreciate our efforts especially since they’ve seen little to no reprieve from the federal level.”

Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera said freezing the open space trust fund as well as other efforts will help support residents to get through the crisis.

“I look forward to the day when our parks are filled with kids playing once again, but until then we’ll continue our work on the local government side to assist our residents in every way possible,” he said.

Councilwoman Mira Priz-Arey said that the city will continue to preserve and expand green infrastructure citywide with the funds that have been collected thus far.

Community relief 

Earlier this month, the city took several additional measures to help residents financially impacted by the public health emergency.

Fulop established the Jersey City COVID-19 Community Relief Program which provides for needy families and seniors by improving access to food and other necessities. It also provides financial support for small businesses and nonprofits with a 100 percent match on the state’s COVID-19 relief grants.

The city established the Community Relief Fund to accept private donations to support those most impacted with a goal of raising $3 million. The Jersey City council is scheduled to vote on a measure in May that could freeze rents by preventing rent increases in some units.

“We need to be aggressive and proactive to help residents who are struggling, and that means making some tough choices with regard to the city budget,” Fulop said. “We’re doing everything we can do at the city level to make sure Jersey City bounces back stronger than ever.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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