The county’s decision to slice $4 million from its $20-million surplus and make it available for grants to municipalities and to culture and arts is fraught with danger.
Each of the 16 towns in the county is sure to ask for some money. How the county will decide is yet to be determined. I’ve already applied for the job of coin-flipper, should that be the method.
A couple towns will be funded. The rest won’t, and will be disappointed, angry, vengeful.
If the Democratic towns â€” Dennis, Middle, and, shortly, Lower â€” don’t get their requests, they will charge politics.
If one of them does get some money, the Republican towns will vow retribution on the free-holders.
Surplus sharing is almost a lose-lose proposition.
The Democratic freeholder candidate, if there is one, will charge that freeholders should have shared 6 or 7 or 10 million dollars instead of 4.
There is also the danger of unreal expectations on the part of the taxpaying, voting public.
Freeholder Dan Beyel optimistically said the surplus sharing was intended to spare towns from having to raise taxes to do capital projects.
Ha ha ha.
The towns will take the money and run â€” to spend it. They like to spend; they don’t like to give back. They’ll fool you. They’ll raise your assessment, then cut your tax rate. You have to look at your tax bill.
All those negatives being said, it is still better that the county share $4 million of our money out of our surplus than not doing it at all.
Getting money out of government officials is not easy. I should know; I’ve tried.
The county has an open space program, for example, to which taxpayers provide some $3 mil-lion a year. I have offered to sell it my backyard, with or without the garage, to no avail.
Then I offered to sell my development rights to the farmland preservation program with the same result. It’s not farmland, they said, because I don’t grow anything on it.
Plant a crop, they tell me.
Will morning glories do? I ask.
No, they tell me. This, mind you, from a board several of whose members have sold their own development rights.
My wife is willing to raise chickens â€” she brakes for brown eggs â€” but I have a feeling some of my snooty neighbors would cause a fuss if they heard a rooster crowing at dawn.
I’ve always liked the idea of having a cow, but not the idea of cleaning up after it.
I’ve had no better luck with a number of state programs.
The state DEP administers the National Recreational Trails Program and has almost a million dollars available this year. It says trails are “one of the best ways to get our money’s worth from public tax dollars…”
And it says, “Having a trail within walking distance of every front door in New Jersey has been one of the visions guiding the Garden State Greenways initiative…”
I have a great potential trail on my property. Starting on the front sidewalk, go south on my driveway, with my house to the west, past an unused, plastic “pond” and numerous flowers (in season), around the back of my garage (being careful not to sink down in my wife’s compost pile), then north on the other side of my garage, beneath a rusty basketball hoop and, with my house to the east, continue on to the front sidewalk.
This trail is good for all seasons: brisk and healthy in the winter, lovely spring flowers in the spring, a super, unobstructed view in the summer of my neighbor’s pool about a foot from the property line, and great fall flowers in the fall.
Also in the summer, farm fresh produce: tomatoes, raspberries, peaches.
This would be a short walk with special appeal to senior citizens. I would say it could be navigated in three minutes.
My application for funds to the DEP noted the opportunity to “connect with the natural world.”
They never even answered me.
The DEP also has federal money for private landowners to protect endangered species. It’s called the national Landowner Incentive Program (LIP).
I am quite sure an endangered redheaded woodpecker has been lunching at my wife’s bird-feeder. Should I be mistaken, and keep this to yourself, enticing one from the community col-lege site should be easy.
It’s even easier to “prove” that I have an endangered Southern Gray Treefrog on the property. They’re on the endangered list at the college even though no one has ever seen one, just heard them. Ssssh; listen…did you hear it?
Finally, if neither of those works, some little animal is leaving holes about the size of a little animal in my backyard. I have not a clue what is going on, but I assure you that animal is en-dangered if I catch it.
I wrote a brilliant narrative with my application, promising to protect the woodpecker, treat the treefrog like a relative, or spare whatever’s digging the holes. Or all three. Once again, DEP didn’t reply. You might say they gave me no LIP.
Desperate for a couple bucks to pay my taxes, I asked Stone Harbor to make me an offer on my posting a Welcome to Stone Harbor sign on my front yard. I got a form letter back saying that would only be possible if I had my utility lines placed underground â€” at my expense.
These guys have you coming and going.
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