The Boxborough CPA Campaign

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

About the Campaign

At the spring 2014 Town Meeting, Boxborough residents approved putting a question on the November ballot to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) with a 1% surcharge on local property taxes.

CPA allows cities and towns to approve a surcharge of up to 3% on real property taxes, creating 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.

So far, 155 Massachusetts municipalities have adopted the CPA. Participating communities 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. In June, for the second year in a row, the state legislature approved a $25 million transfer from the state budget surplus to the CPA Trust Fund, to help bolster the fund’s diminished revenues. Document recording fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds are the main source of revenue for the fund, and the recent decline in the real estate market has led to lower collections of these funds.

In Boxborough, the annual CPA surcharge for an average homeowner would be approximately $89. Qualifying low-income homeowners, along with qualifying low- and moderate-income seniors homeowners, would be exempt. All CPA projects must win the approval of the Boxborough Town Meeting in order to receive CPA funding, following a thorough public review process. 

What's At Stake

An outer Boston suburb that retains a rural feel, Boxborough has an active land trust and a local government committed to conservation. Adopting CPA will give Boxborough another tool to pursue land acquisition and recreation projects that are already on the horizon, and which would likely receive local taxpayer dollars anyway. By passing CPA, these projects can be undertaken with the help of state match and other leveraged funding, resulting in a savings to local homeowners. Although some residents have been advocating for CPA adoption for years, now that neighboring communities have been benefiting from CPA, it has become apparent that Boxborough is leaving money on the table by not adopting the measure.

If passed, Boxborough’s CPA surcharge would raise approximately $157,000 each year in local funds alone, and allow the community to begin receiving annual distributions from the statewide CPA Trust Fund. Adopting CPA will give Boxborough additional funding for land acquisition projects, and give the town the wherewithal to compete effectively with private developers for properties with important scenic, historic, drinking water protection, or other valuable qualities. CPA funding also leverages additional private, state, and federal dollars.

The benefits of CPA have become increasingly apparent over the last decades, as the neighboring towns of Harvard, Littleton, Acton and Stow, as well as most of the other communities in western Middlesex County, have combined locally generated CPA funds with the CPA state match to complete numerous open space, recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing projects. Nearly half the communities in the state have adopted CPA. Since the act was passed in 2000, over 6,600 CPA projects have been completed with $1.3 billion generated statewide.