CPA Adoption Overview

To date, 155 cities and towns have adopted the Community Preservation Act and are appropriating fund revenues to meet vital community needs.

Is Your Municipality Considering CPA Adoption?

This Guide to Accepting the CPA, from the MA Secretary of State, outlines the steps to take for CPA adoption.

In addition, the Coalition is available to help you with your community's CPA adoption effort. We can assist in developing a campaign strategy and provide sample campaign materials and ballot language. We can also provide CPA revenue projections and cost to the average taxpayer; this information will help your community decide on which CPA exemptions to offer, and what surcharge level to choose. Contact us for more information, or to schedule a free CPA adoption workshop in your town.

Our Adoption Resources page lists a number of resources to help you make the case for CPA in your community.

Which Method of CPA Adoption is right for your community?
Legislative Body Action
or Ballot Question Petition

A municipality adopts CPA through passage of a ballot question at the voting booth. There are two ways that the question to adopt CPA can be placed on the ballot. The first method, used by roughly 2/3 of the current CPA communities, is a vote by the municipality's legislative body (Town Meeting or City or Town Council) to put the adoption question on the ballot. The second method requires a petition to be signed by at least 5 percent of the community's registered voters, requesting that the question be placed on the ballot. In either case, CPA must subsequently be approved by a simple majority of the voters in the community.

Legislative Body Action
This method of CPA adoption requires the municipal legislative body (Town Meeting or City or Town Council) to accept, by a simple majority, the provisions of the Community Preservation Act. View sample town warrant article and city ordinance language.

The acts of the Town Meeting/City or Town Council are then referred for voter approval at the next regularly scheduled municipal election or general state election (November of even-numbered years), whichever comes first. A CPA vote may not be scheduled for a special election.

The legislative body must accept CPA (M.G.L. Chapter 44B, Sections 3 through 7, inclusive, along with a surcharge amount and optional exemptions) and submit the CPA ballot question to the municipal clerk at least 35 days prior to a regularly scheduled municipal election or, if a state election, to the Secretary of State at least 60 days prior to the election date. Municipalities cannot submit a CPA ballot question for placement on an election ballot until after the vote has taken place by the local legislative body.

In many towns, regular Town Meeting does not take place 35 days before municipal elections (in some cases elections precede Town Meeting). If this is the case, towns may choose to call a special Town Meeting more than 35 days prior to the next regular town election in order to qualify for placement of the CPA question on that election ballot.

Ballot Question Petition
If a municipal legislative body fails to approve (or does not consider) the acceptance of the provisions of CPA 90 days prior to a local election or 120 days before a state election, citizens may circulate a ballot question petition seeking to place the CPA question directly on the ballot. The petition must be signed by 5 percent of the registered voters in the municipality. View sample petition language.

The signatures appearing on the petition must be certified at least 35 days prior to the municipal election and 60 days prior to a state election for the CPA question to be placed on the municipal ballot. The municipal clerk (or Secretary of State for state elections) has 7 days to certify the petitions, so the petitions must be submitted for certification at least 42 days before a municipal election and 67 days before a state election. (To ensure adequate time to correct problems that may be uncovered during certification, it is advisable for citizens to submit petitions several days in advance of these deadlines.)


Further Resources . . .

>> Learn about Community Preservation Committees

>> Secretary of State's Guide to Accepting the CPA 

>> DOR's IGR 00_209 (Amended version) - Comprehensive Guidelines on CPA Adoption and Implementation 

>> Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance 

       >> "CPA At Work in Small Towns" - Brochure from the Trustees of Reservations