Upper Dublin’s Board of Commissioners set to discuss possible tax hike to raise funds for open space acquisition

On the May 14th agenda of the Upper Dublin Township Board of Commissioners is a planned discussion on the evaluation of a real estate tax levy, that would require a voter referendum, or an EIT (earned income tax) increase to fund open space acquisition.

On May 10th, Jonathan Bleemer, the township’s finance director and assistant manager, sent a memo to the commissioners that outlines a comparison of the two approaches to raising the funds. Below is a text of the memo:

The Open Space Lands Act, authorized in 1968 and amended in 1996, provided funding sources to local governments to acquire property for the purpose of preserving open space and protecting natural resources. The Act allows for fee simple purchases along with the purchase of development rights to land.

Gil High [the township’s solicitor] opined in 2009 “The Act limits the purposes for which open space can be acquired to those related to preservation, protection and conservation of the natural, scenic, aesthetic, watershed, historic, geologic and botanic resources and values of a site. In other words, a site acquired with this money is to be left in its natural state and not developed for recreational or gathering purposes.”

Since Gil’s opinion, the Act was amended 2022 to allow for up to 25% of any accumulated balance to be used to develop, improve, design, engineer and maintain property acquired under this Act. This would apply to property purchased through the Act either by real estate tax referendum or by earned income tax.

Financing open space acquisitions under the Act are authorized through the imposition of a real estate tax levy by a voter approved referendum or by an increase in the earned income tax rate above the statutory 1%. The EIT increase can only be levied on income of Upper Dublin residents. EIT received from non-residents would not apply.

Below is an estimate of the cost to residents using an example of raising $7.5 million for open space [please note that the page shown below was cut off on the right in the version provided with agenda]:

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The meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at 520 Virginia Drive in Fort Washington.