After being elected County Executive, John Stoffa proposed a half mill tax increase for a "pay as you go" open space plan that will generate $84 million over twenty years, and provide a source for matching funds from the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Stoffa's plan, adopted in December '06 by a dubious County Council, had overwhelming public support. Sandra Yerger and Tom Maxfield, Lower Saucon Township Supervisors, spoke of their own referendum for open space, which passed with 66% of the vote. Williams Township supervisor Robert Doerr told Council that a similar tax increase in his community had already resulted in $3 million for open space. Jerry Steele, who chaired Williams Township's preservation board, warned we are "being circled by corporate developers."
Since that time, the economy has nosedived, year after year. County Executive Stoffa has warned that, unless the economy suddenly improves or we take drastic measures to reduce costs, Northampton County is looking at tax increases in each of the next three years. A tax increase is all but certain next year in Lehigh County, too.
Ron Angle has suggested we forego open space funding until the economy improves. This step alone would reduce next year's tax increase by half. But he was surprised at a recent Nazareth COG (Council of Governments) meeting to learn there is little support for his proposal, at least among township leaders. So he has asked me to post a poll, asking you how you feel. Should tax dollars set aside for open space be used to reduce a tax increase next year? Angle is proposing a one-year moratorium on open space. What do you think?
On my left side bar, you can see the poll. I've set it so you can only vote once from a computer, but someone will figure out a way around that. I think Angle, and the rest of Council, would really be interested in your views. Do you continue to support open space, even when it hurts?