Evesham residents will vote this November on increase Open Space Program levy

The last time voters approved changing the levy rate was 21 years ago in the year 2000.

One of the numerous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was many Evesham residents becoming more engaged than ever before with Evesham Township’s parks and open space system.

During this past year, and even before, many residents have since expressed a desire for the township to implement additional amenities at the township’s parks and save additional open space and historic sites from overdevelopment.

Now Evesham Township Council is putting that decision directly into the hands of the township’s voters.

This fall on the November ballot, Evesham voters will be presented with a referendum question on whether to allow the township the ability to raise Evesham’s dedicated tax levy for the Township’s Open Space Program.

The last time voters approved changing the levy rate was 21 years ago in the year 2000. At that time, voters approved giving the township the ability to raise the levy from $0.01 per $100 of assessed property value to $0.03, where the rate has since remained for the past two decades.

If voters choose to approve the upcoming referendum in November, the township would have the ability to raise an additional annual levy amount up to, but not exceeding, an additional $0.03 per $100 of assessed property value.

As it currently stands, Evesham’s current levy annually generates about $1.6 million per year for the Township’s Open Space Program.

The ability to raise the levy an additional $0.01, $0.02, or $0.03 per $100 of assessed property value results in the following estimates:

  • $0.01 increase = nearly $532,000 in additional annual revenue estimated for 2022.
  • $0.02 increase = nearly $1.06 million in additional annual revenue estimated for 2022.
  • $0.03 increase = nearly $1.59 million in additional annual revenue estimated for 2022.

Over the next 20 years, these levy increases would mean additional estimated open space funds of $10.9 million ($0.01 increase), $21.8 million ($0.02 increase), or $32.7 million ($0.03 increase), respectively.

 “With a referendum, our residents can directly choose whether or not to invest more toward improvements, maintenance, acquisitions, and restoration efforts at the township’s open space, park system and historic sites,” Mayor Jaclyn Veasy said. “Many times we find ourselves in a situation where we must consider taking on additional debt, wait until we can possibly secure a suitable grant, or simply postpone projects. I look forward to hearing what residents think in November.”

Mayor Veasy also compared Evesham’s current levy rate of $0.03 per every $100 to neighboring Mount Laurel’s rate of $0.08 per every $100. Mount Laurel’s levy currently generates about $4.6 million annually for Mount Laurel, compared to the $1.6 million generated by the levy in Evesham.

“We always get feedback from residents that they want a location in Evesham like Laurel Acres Park in Mount Laurel, and you can clearly see the difference in open space funding between our two towns,” Veasy said. “If residents truly want the township to provide similar types of amenities here in Evesham, we need to be able to fund those types of projects in the proper way.”

Per state law, taxes raised through an open space levy cannot be used to fund general government expenses. The funds must be used for open space acquisition, maintenance, improvements, historic properties, etc.

Currently, across a three-year average, about 30 percent of funds from the Township’s Open Space Program are transferred to Golf Course Utility Operating Fund for the municipally-owned Indian Spring. About another 30 percent of funds are directed toward Open Space Debt Service. Nearly 25 percent of fund are used for Open Space Recreation and Conservation Maintenance Expenses. And the nearly 15 percent of funds that remain are dedicated to Open Space Salaries & Wages.