While it was only implemented a few years ago, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is proposing the elimination of the local Open Space Trust Fund in order to save taxpayers a collective $1 million in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My job as mayor is to protect the wellbeing of our residents, and that includes their financial wellbeing as we encounter unprecedented times with a lot of uncertainty ahead,” Fulop said in a statement.
“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.”
The announcement to withhold the Open Space tax comes one day after Fulop proposed withdrawing the Arts and Culture referendum planned for the November ballot.
The Jersey City Arts Fund was mirrored after the Open Space Trust Fund enacted, after being approved by voters in 2016.
“We recognize the importance of our parks and open space now more than ever,” added 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.”
Jersey City is anticipating a $70 million financial short fall due the current public health emergency and several concepts to provide relief have been introduced.
Those endeavors include rent freeze for all rent-controlled buildings and to helping small businesses and nonprofits with a 100 percent match on the state’s COVID-19 relief fund.
“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,” noted Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera. “Freezing this tax, coupled with all other efforts underway, will really help support our residents to get through these times of crisis.”
“Jersey City remains at the forefront of preserving and expanding green infrastructure citywide, and will continue to make positive steps in that direction for the benefit of the community overall with the funds that have been collected up to this point,” explained Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey.
Last November, Jersey City unveiled the first allocation of the Open Space Trust Fund with $3 million in park improvements spanning across all six wards.