Open Space Measures on Ballot in 17 States
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Next Tuesday, November 4, 2003, American voters will decide on 79 ballot measures totaling more than $1.7 billion in conservation-related funding, according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL).
Voters in the state of New Jersey will decide Tuesday on a statewide land protection funding measure. The other 78 ballot measures for land conservation will be at the local level of government, spread across 17 different states.
A complete list of all 79 local and state measures for conservation and parks is available from LandVote 2003 – www.landvote.org – a service of TPL. The results of Tuesday’s vote will be available online by noon eastern time on Wednesday, November 5, after the balloting is completed. A report detailing all 2003 results will also be published in early 2004.
“Voters across the country have the opportunity to protect their quality of life by approving open space funding on Tuesday,” said Ernest Cook, Director of TPL’s Conservation Finance Program. “This year, we have already seen 34 local measures approved around the nation to provide money for parks and to protect drinking water, farmland, and other high priority open space needs. We expect this trend will continue on November 4th.”
Tuesday’s key local votes include: Brevard County, FL ($453 million); Arapahoe County, CO ($170 million); Montgomery County, PA ($150 million); Carroll County, GA ($80 million); Ann Arbor, MI ($58 million); Boulder, CO ($51 million); Hudson County, NJ ($40 million); Huntington, NY ($30 million); and San Antonio, TX ($27 million). A statewide measure is also slated for New Jersey ($150 million).
“Since 1998, voters have approved over $22 billion to protect green spaces across America,” said Cook. “This year’s ballot line-up shows that land conservation remains a high priority across the country, including areas like Arapahoe County, Colorado, that tend to vote conservatively in state and federal elections.”
Last year, California, Nevada, and Virginia voters passed measures (Propositions 40 and 50, Question 1, and Question 2 respectively) that together created $6.3 billion in conservation-related funding.
Already in 2003, voters in 34 communities in 15 states have approved ballot measures, totaling $555 million for conservation-related purposes. These measures include significant funding in Dallas, TX; Raleigh, NC; Forsyth County, GA; and Colorado Springs, CO. The 34 successful measures so far in 2003 represent 69% of all measures that voters decided on. This rate of success is consistent with the average success rate in the period 1998 through 2002, which was 70%.
“Local measures continue to be most popular in states that have incentives through statewide land conservation funding programs,” said Cook. “For example, there are 37 local measures on the ballot in New Jersey this fall. These are property tax increases designed to provide matching funds for the acquisition of open space, taking advantage of the state’s Garden State Preservation Trust.”
Twenty of 21 New Jersey counties have adopted an open space trust fund levy. This November 4th, voters in the final county – Hudson County – will have the opportunity to pass a measure to help them take advantage of the statewide funds for land conservation.
The 79 state and local measures in November 2003 compare to 108 last year. The decrease is due to the off-year election cycle.
Cook notes, “Although this is an off-year, state legislatures, county commissions, and city councils are continuing to give high priority to land conservation, even in tough economic times.”
Most of the measures tabulated by LandVote are property tax increases – like the measures in New Jersey – or general obligation bonds. Bonds are a way for communities to borrow money in order to save land now, while paying off the debt over the next 20 or 30 years. The dollar amounts of each measure are either the total amount of the bond, or in the case of a new tax, the total of the revenue created over the lifetime of the levy (usually 10 to 20 years). When a ballot measure contains no sunset provision, LandVote estimates its revenue total based on a 20-year duration. In some cases open space is one purpose among several included in a measure. In these instances, only the portion of the funding that is specifically for open space acquisition is included in LandVote.
“LandVote 2003” is available on the web at www.landvote.org
TPL, established in 1972, is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being. TPL helps conserve land for recreation and to improve the health and quality of life of American communities. Visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org