Monday, December 05, 2011
Stoffa's $3.75 Million Open Space Plan Safe ... For Now
Stoffa has retained that commitment. In his proposed 2012 budget, he set aside $3.7 million for open space projects. The equivalent of a half mill of real estate taxes would pay for farmland preservation ($2 million), environmentally sensitive land ($1 million) and County parks ($700,000). But Council President John Cusick, noting there were no "projects in the pipeline," proposed eliminating the $1 million set aside for wetlands. He also wants to use hotel tax money to pay for County parks.
A small army of environmentalists appeared at Council's December 1 meeting to protest these cuts, including the Sierra Club's David Maguire, the Wildlands Conservancy's Ken Barrett, and the Nature Conservancy's Sandra Yerger, Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisor Judy Hinkel, and educator Vicky Bastidas, who brought four of her students with her.
"Please raise our taxes," she asked.
Council member Ron Angle answered, "If it was only my money, I would vote for a tax increase." But then he held up a Sheriff Sale list showing 104 homes being sold next week, and asked his own question.
"Who's speaking for those people?" Angle added that real estate taxes and home heating bills are the "two nuts they can't crack anymore."
In a 5 to 4 vote, Angle, Cusick, Bruce Gilbert, Mike Dowd and Barb Thierry voted to eliminate the $1 million set aside for environmentally sensitive land from Stoffa's $3.7 million open space program.
But in a strange twist, the amended budget failed by a 5 to 4 vote. Unless Council can pass an amended budget by December 16, it appears likely that Stoffa's budget, including a fully funded open space program, will become law.
Another meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, 6:30 PM, at the Northampton County Courthouse.
Blogger's Note: Pictured above is a stretch along the 5-mile long Nor-Bath Trail, a County Park that runs from Bath to Northampton. It's breathtakingly beautiful this time of year. Crows shit on me as I snapped that picture.