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MORRISTOWN, NJ-When do taxpayers support a real estate tax increase of 67%? When they live in one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing counties, and the proceeds would be designated for the acquisition and preservation of precious open space.

Morris County freeholders (the equivalent of county commissioners in other states) had planned to place a question on the general election ballot this fall regarding an increase of two cents per $100 of assessed property values, raising the levy to five cents per $100. The additional proceeds, estimated to be $10 million a year, would be used to acquire and preserve the county’s dwindling open space.

To test the waters on the question, the board of freeholders hooked up with the local office of the Trust for Public Land to conduct a survey among likely voters to find out how much of an increase the electorate would accept. The survey was carried out by Raritan Associates, whose president, Stephen Salmore, is a former Rutgers University professor and director of the Eagleton Poll, one of the country’s most respected public opinion surveys on political and policy issues.

Te two-cent increase per $100 of assessed value garnered wide support in the poll. Presented as being phased in by a half-cent a year for the next four years, the increase was supported by 65% of those who identified themselves as Republicans, by 67% of Democrats and by more than 70% of independent voters. All those surveyed said they would probably vote in November.

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