The Arlington CPA Campaign

October 28, 2014: Local Selectman Dan Dunn and State Representative Jay Kaufman endorse CPA in Arlington. Click here to read their letter to the editor "Dunn, Kaufman support preservation act" published at YourArlington.com.

About the Campaign

The article below was featured on www.conservationcampaign.org about the CPA ballot election campaign in Arington.

On November 4, voters in Arlington, Massachusetts will vote to approve the Community Preservation Act and create a 1.5% surcharge on local real estate taxes.

The CPA allows cities and towns to approve a surcharge of up to 3% on real property taxes and creates a dedicated funding source for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreation. Since 2012, municipalities can also use CPA funds to rehabilitate existing parks and recreation areas, a popular use of the program’s funds.

So far, 155 Massachusetts municipalities have adopted the Community Preservation Act. Communities participating in CPA receive annual distributions from the state’s CPA Trust Fund based on the amount of funds raised locally. And unlike disbursement funds in other states, the CPA Trust Fund is well funded. On June 30, 2014, the state legislature for the second year in a row approved a $25 million transfer from the state’s budget surplus to the CPA Trust Fund, to bolster the fund.  The main revenue source for the fund has traditionally been recording fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, but these revenues have diminished in recent years with the decline in the real estate market.

The annual surcharge for an average homeowner will be approximately $86. Unlike a general property tax increase, which impacts all residents uniformly, passage of the CPA ballot measure allows for exemptions relative to income level.  The first $100,000 of each homeowner’s assessed value will be exempt, along with properties of qualifying low income residents and low- to moderate- income seniors. The first $100,000 of commercial property value will also be exempt.

What’s at Stake

If passed, the surcharge is projected to dedicate roughly $1.13 million each year in local CPA funds and an annual CPA state match for projects such as renovating the Old Schwamb Mill, the nation’s oldest continually operating mill site, and the historic Jason Russell house, both of which have deferred maintenance.  Funding may also be used to acquire the Mugar property, an important area for wildlife habitat and flood storage

CPA funds are locally controlled – through the CPA committee Arlington citizens will have control of spending decisions – and make community projects affordable. CPA funding also leverages additional private, state and federal dollars for projects.  

The benefits of CPA are have become increasingly apparent as neighboring towns – and nearly half the communities in the state – have combined local dedicated CPA funds in the last decade with the  state match for numerous open space, recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing projects.  Nearby municipalities, including Lexington, Bedford, Waltham, Lexington, Cambridge and Somerville, have all adopted CPA. Since the act was passed in 2000, over 6,600 CPA projects have been completed with $1.3 billion generated statewide. 

Further Resources

>> As part of their campaign effort, Arlington debuted a CPA website: arlingtoncpa.org

>> Read the op-ed letter from the League of Women Voters in support of CPA.