MILTON – In response to questions that arose from the allocation of certain town funds to build a new playground, a dedicated account has been created to purchase and maintain open space.
The Town Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution that will establish an account specifically dedicated to preserving the “rural charm and character” of the town by purchasing, maintaining and improving open space for active and passive use. The fund will be contributed to through local sales tax revenue and from an existing ordinance aimed at preserving recreational space in future developments.
Town regulations call for developers to include recreational space in subdivisions, but if the Planning Board sees fit it can ask the developer to instead set aside funds for that purpose elsewhere in town. But when the town opted to use some of those funds for a playground it came as a surprise to members of the Open Space Committee, which was previously of the opinion that those funds were only to be allocated for the purchase of open space, according to Larry Woolbright, a member of the committee and the Planning Board.
Wednesday’s resolution was largely a response to concerns that came out of the decision to fund the playground and was the result of a series of meetings with town officials. Open Space Committee members praised the decision as forward thinking.
“With the rapid suburbanization of town we think it’s very important for the town to think about its open space and preserving space to be used for open space and recreation,” Woolbright said.
Up to $100,000 from the existing park fund will be allocated for the new account once the playground project is completed, as well as 20 percent of all future subdivision developer funds allocated for recreational purposes. In addition, 1 percent of the town’s sales tax revenue will be set aside, with a maximum of $30,000 annually. The total cap on the account is $1.5 million, and money from the new fund can only be dispensed with the approval of the Town Board and following a public hearing.
The one lingering question about the new fund is the use of sales tax revenue. Milton officials have contacted the Association of Towns of the State of New York on the matter and initial reaction was that the town can use its sales tax revenue as it sees fit, but a further review is underway to ensure the legality of the move, said Town Supervisor Daniel Lewza.
Councilwoman Barbara Kerr said the new fund was a great idea, and said the town will find a way to fund the account even if the use of the sales tax is prohibited.
“We can all promise you that there is a problem with that we will make it up to you so that revenue is still coming in,” Kerr said.
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