Responding to CPA Revocation and Surcharge Reduction Efforts

May 8, 2015: Each year, a handful of communities face efforts aimed at revoking CPA or reducing their CPA surcharges. To date, no community has revoked CPA, and only a handful have reduced their surcharge. While all communities are facing serious fiscal challenges, it is important that CPA supporters help educate their communities on why CPA revocation or surcharge reduction is not beneficial in the long run. 

Revoking or reducing a CPA surcharge eliminates or reduces a guaranteed funding source that can benefit cities, towns and individuals. Without CPA, communities must rely exclusively on private fundraising or a tax levy without a state match to fund community housing, historic preservation and open space and recreation needs. Especially in a tough economy, CPA helps municipalities balance funding among these needs, and reduces the financial competition with other community needs such as fire, police, schools, maintenance, and public works, including infrastructure.

We’ve put together the following helpful resources in support of CPA. Please use these materials as needed in your community.

Talking Points in Support of CPA
View general talking points in support of CPA
. These are arguments you can use when you’re talking with your local elected officials, neighbors and friends; to write a Letter to the Editor or an op-ed; to make a flyer or brochure; or to draft an email to send in your community.

Read tips on what language resonates with voters when discussing community preservation and conservation of natural resources.

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor make a powerful statement and reach many members of your community. Click on the links below to read letters you can modify for your local paper.

  • Wareham: letter detailing completed CPA projects in the community and contrasting the great accomplishments with the low cost per person.
  • Westport: "be selfish!" letter makes the case for CPA increasing property values
  • Duxbury: letter emphasizing importance of state match and character of town
  • Plymouth: letter in opposition to revocation, arguing that CPA is “the biggest bargain in the state”.
  • Becket: letter in opposition to revocation, in favor of preserving the rural community appreciated by residents.
  • Hanson: letter thanking voters for voting against the surcharge reduction
  • Manchester: letter reminding residents CPA's presence in their lives and urging them to vote against a surcharge reduction. 

Columns and Op-Ed Pieces
Local newspapers often welcome guest columnists and op-ed pieces. This format gives you an opportunity to make pro-CPA arguments, sometimes in greater detail than a Letter to the Editor. Click on the links below to read columns you can modify for your local paper.

  • Carver: "Myths and Truths" op-ed debunks common misconceptions
  • Westport: column detailing CPA projects that have been completed in the town
  • Duxbury: column arguing against surcharge reduction
  • Sudbury: column highlighting CPA’s accomplishments in town, arguing against surcharge reduction
  • Amherst: op-ed in favor of surcharge increase

Presentations to Town Meeting and Municipal Officials
Several CPCs have prepared presentations for their Board of Selectmen, Town Meeting or other municipal government entities. Click on the links below for tips and to view presentations, which can be customized for your community. This is a great opportunity to emphasize the fact that your community can use CPA funds to leverage additional state, federal and private funds for projects – a particularly strong argument in this economy. 

  • General Town Meeting Tips
  • The Wayland CPC speech given at Town Meeting in response to a proposed reduction of the CPA surcharge from 1.5% to 0.1%, which successfully thwarted the reduction from making it to the ballot by highlighting specific projects that demonstrated the value of maintaining that surcharge level.
  • The Hingham CPC’s PowerPoint presentation uses graphics to show the importance of maintaining their surcharge level, and “before and after” photos to highlight the importance of their CPA-funded projects
  • The Stow CPC’s PowerPoint presentation uses graphics to emphasize the difference between a 1% surcharge and a 3% surcharge, and highlights successful projects in the community
  • The Belchertown CPC put together information detailing how the town was able to leverage CPA funds and attract thousands of dollars from non-CPA source
  • The Northampton CPC organized a 5 year report on CPA in their town, explaining their processes, financial information, and completed projects

Handout, Flyers and Emails
If you need to defend CPA at a Town Meeting, it’s often helpful to distribute flyers or handouts at the meeting. You can also contact committees, organizations and clubs in town and ask them to send emails to their membership explaining why it’s important to support CPA, and ask that those people forward the emails to their networks in the community. Click on the links below for samples.

  • Westport: well-designed flyer with CPA project details and photographs
  • Westport: "no bigger bang for the buck!" two page flyer with project details
  • Sudbury: tri-fold with info on "the multiplier effect" and priority projects
  • Kingston: fact sheet with general and project-specific CPA information
  • Hanson: color brochure detailing local CPA projects
  • Hanson: email sent to the presidents of various youth sports groups
  • Duxbury: brochure against surcharge reduction using photographs and graphics
  • Rockport: text-only handout detailing the benefits of CPA
  • Easton: color handout describing CPA, and completed and future projects in Easton
  • Carlisle: 2-page flyer with project details and a graph showing increasing funds to the local trust fund
  • Newburyport: handout against surcharge reduction
  • Boxford: emails supporting CPA
  • Sturbridge: color mailer with reasons to "Vote No of Question 4"
  • Groveland: newsletter detailing completed and prospective projects and explaining pros and cons of CPA surcharge reduction 
  • Marshfield: letter sent to voters before Town Meeting and basic CPA handout

Campaign Websites
Depending on the resources available, you may even want to consider creating a simple website that presents the positive facts on CPA.

Campaign Signs
Creating and displaying lawn signs will raise community awareness about your efforts to protect CPA.

  • Groveland: lawn sign advocating against a surcharge reduction - "Vote NO On Question #1 - Keep Our Surcharge at 3%"
  • Duxbury: sign advocating against a surcharge reduction - "Protext Duxbury -  Vote NO on 5"
  • Northampton: sign advocating against CPA revocation - "Save the CPA! - Vote NO on questions 1"

Economic Studies
Studies repeatedly show the economic benefits of housing construction, open space and historic preservation. Click on the links below to read economic studies that support CPA.

  • Cost of Community Services Studies, a fact sheet prepared by the American Farmland Trust that summarizes a case study approach used to determine the fiscal contribution of existing local land uses
  • Enhanced Property Values, a Trust for Public Land study on the impact of open space on property values

The Coalition can help!
The Coalition is available to estimate a number of scenarios for CPA cost and revenue projections for your town, including the low-moderate income exemption, the first $100,000 exemption, and different surcharge levels. We can also help you figure out what, exactly, in dollars and cents, your community will leave on the table by revoking CPA or reducing your CPA surcharge. Finally, the Coalition can assist groups organizing against revocation or surcharge reduction efforts. We have been successful in helping communities head off revocation efforts, both before and at town meeting. For more information, or with any questions, please contact the Community Preservation Coalition at 617-367-8998, or by email at katherine.roth@communitypreservation.org.