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Residents to vote on open space plan tax increase

Whitehall Township residents, whether voting at a polling location or at home via mail-in ballot, will answer a referendum question regarding open space and a tax increase.

Even voters who are not registered with a political party - and thus not able to vote for candidates in the primary election - will have the opportunity to have a say on this issue.

The question appears on the ballot like this:

Do you favor the imposition of a 0.05 mill increase to Whitehall Township’s real estate tax to be used as authorized by the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Preservation Act?

The Whitehall Township Open Space referendum is intended to create a fund for investment in open space preservation.

According to Ordinance 3333, “Whitehall Township proposes to amend the township’s real estate tax to impose an additional 0.05 mill for the limited purpose of preserving or acquiring land for open space uses to meet needs for recreation, amenity and conservation of natural resources, including farm land, forests and a pure and adequate water supply.”

The fund would be created by payments from township residential property owners and businesses - specifically, a fee of 0.05 real state millage.

The annual impact to a home assessed at $200,000 is expected to cost an additional $10.

If the referendum is approved, residents’ payments would begin in 2025. The funding would be available in 2026.

It is estimated the open space fund would realize up to $114,000 per year.

The Open Space Lands Acquisition and Preservation Act funding would have restricted uses. It can be used, for example, to preserve land in conjunction with the Lehigh County Agricultural Preservation Program and purchase land for township preservation and recreation that does not qualify for the Lehigh County Agricultural Preservation Program or other land trusts.

In addition, 25% of the annual funds can be used to improve and maintain existing open spaces such as Jordan Creek or Whitehall Parkway.

The open space funds cannot be used to repair the township pools or purchase new equipment for the existing parks.

A “yes” vote indicates the resident supports the 0.05 mill increase in the Whitehall Township real estate tax to fund the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Preservation Act.