NJ historic preservation funding remains at risk
It has been five years since the New Jersey Historic Trust was awarded grant money to restore and preserve the state's historic sites, and the wait may continue.
A bill being considered by state lawmakers would implement the 2014 constitutional dedication of corporate business tax revenues for environmental purposes, including grants for historic preservation. However, as it reads, the measure proposes that 97 percent of dedicated revenue would be used for land acquisition, public recreation and conservation, Blue Acres and farmland preservation. That would only leave 3 percent for historic preservation.
According to a 2012 survey, capital needs for repair, restoration and adaptive use of historic resources in every New Jersey county were estimated at $751 million. As the current legislation stands, only $2.1 million would be available for historic preservation grants.
"We understand that everyone is dealing with cuts and everyone is trying to do as much as they can with as tight a budget as possible. The problem with being the lowest rung on the totem pole, so to speak, is that there is not enough money at that level to sustain a meaningful program," said Scott Pannepacker, president of Preservation New Jersey.
Without additional money, Pannepacker is concerned it will leave the New Jersey Historic Trust with very little funding to administratively operate and to run any sort of meaningful grant program, leaving the restoration and preservation of New Jersey's history at risk.
"As we lose a lot of our historic resources, whether they be buildings or sights or places from the Revolutionary War, Industrial Revolution or different eras, as they fade, so does the memory and part of the history," Pannepacker said. "It's part of what people can reach out an touch which helps put it in context as opposed to a book which often feels remote and far away."
New Jersey also has old architecture which is part of what makes some of the communities unique.
"It's expensive to restore these buildings. In some cases, they're public purpose spaces or community spaces, so the Historic Trust Fund has been an integral part of helping restore these buildings," Pannepacker said.
The New Jersey Historic Trust was created by law in 1967.