Editorial: Vote yes on Community Preservation Fund

This November, voters in the five East End towns will have the unique opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that could generate $20 million annually to reduce nitrogen in our waterways.

In one of the more no-brainer propositions you’ll ever see, each of the towns has added to its ballot an extension of the Community Preservation Fund, which, if approved, would also allow the towns, for the first time, to allocate up to 20 percent of the revenues generated by the 2 percent real estate transfer tax toward water quality initiatives.

While open space acquisitions remain a top priority across the East End, an amendment to how expanding the ways CPF funds can be used could make a dent in solving our water quality issues. Specifically, it could help the East End towns generate some funding to create incentive programs that might enable homeowners to replace aging septic systems with modern wastewater treatment technology.

Since its inception in 1999, the transfer tax has generated more than $1.1 billion that has so far been used exclusively to purchase open space. It was set to expire in 2030, but with voter approval on Election Day would now sunset in 2050.

At the current rate — the individual town funds combined to generate just over $100 million last year — a CPF extension could generate more than $680 million toward efforts to reduce runoff, restore natural habitats and test water across the East End during the additional 20 years.

While the bulk of the funds would be generated by Southampton and East Hampton towns, which accounted for just under 90 percent of all CPF revenues in 2015, the North Fork and Shelter Island funds still amassed $12 million last year and nearly $145 million since 1999.

Southold Town officials should be commended for just how aggressively they’ve targeted open space acquisitions in recent years. While the vast majority of CPF funds will be used to further that mission, having a new tool in the fight against nitrogen should be welcome news to residents of this town.

Most of what you will read before Election Day will center on a particularly divisive presidential race. But it’s important that come Tuesday, Nov. 8, voters in each East End town remember to turn their ballots over and vote to extend the Community Preservation Fund.

For the first time this year, The Suffolk Times will publish its Election Day endorsements throughout the entire month of October. In the past, all endorsements were reserved for the final issue before the election.