TOMS RIVER, NJ – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is sitting on an account with approximately $60,000,000 in it, but nothing to spend it on. That’s because each year, the board taxes residents and puts money in an open space fund. This fund is used to purchase land to protect it from future development. Each year, the board collects roughly $10,000,000 and usually is not able to spend it all, so that money keeps accumulating with virtually no interest.
In light of several financial disasters this year including COVID-19 and last week’s tropical storm, damages are starting to add up for residents and businesses across the county. In Toms River, where Mayor Maurice Hill just introduced a 6% tax hike, on top of even more tax hikes by the school district, residents are beginning to suffer.
In Jackson Township, residents are being double-taxed on open space as the township also collects its own open space tax. Now, Jackson Mayor Michael Reina is asking for a doubling of that tax as part of a November ballot referendum.
Cutting taxes has never been a campaign message by Ocean County’s elected officials. The message instead is “Stabilize Taxes”. That plan isn’t working as taxes across Ocean County continue to increase.
For the first time, there’s a real opportunity to actually “cut” taxes in Ocean County. The county can opt to suspend the new collection of open space taxes for two years, saving the taxpayers $20,000,000 over those two years, while still operating with an account that has $60,000,000 in it, enough to purchase open space for the next 3 or 4 years if they wanted to make a real impact.