October 31, 2012: With Election Day approaching, CPA advocates are making a final push in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Nine communities, including four cities, will be voting on CPA on November 6th. Historically, many communities have successfully piggybacked a local CPA adoption vote on their Presidential election ballots, with ten voting to adopt CPA in November of 2004 and seven in November of 2008. Still, the number of communities, and especially cities, considering CPA this election season is unusual in the post-recession years.
Coalition staff members attribute the increase in number of communities considering CPA to a variety of factors. First are the new amendments to CPA passed by the state legislature, and signed into law by Governor Patrick, this past July. The amendments were designed to strengthen and sustain the CPA program as it moves into its second decade, and as shown by the recent flurry of CPA adoption activity, they seem to have had the desired effect. One of the amendments to CPA that is proving to be attractive to all communities, cities in particular, is the change that allows communities to use CPA funds to rehabilitate existing municipal outdoor recreational facilities. Most Massachusetts cities have many run-down parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields that can benefit from this new feature of CPA.
Another amendment to CPA that two cities are attempting to take advantage of this election season is the new “Blended CPA.” This new type of CPA allows municipalities to adopt CPA with a minimum of a 1% CPA local property tax surcharge, but receive state CPA matching funds on other municipal revenues deposited in the their Community Preservation funds, up to 3% of their local property tax levies. For cities (and other communities) with diversified sources of municipal revenue such as linkage fees, hotel/motel taxes, meals taxes, and the like, this feature allows communities to get more bang for their community preservation fund bucks.
Another provision of the new CPA legislation is on the ballot for the first time this Fall – the ability to offer commercial and industrial property owners an exemption from the CPA surcharge for the first $100,000 of commercial and industrial property value. This mirrors a similar exemption available to residential property owners in most communities that have adopted (or are attempting to adopt) CPA. It was designed especially with small, local “mom and pop” businesses in mind. This exemption will be on the ballot as part of the adoption votes in Somerville and Salem, while West Springfield will vote on amending their current CPA program to add this exemption.
CPA advocates in the nine communities considering adoption of CPA are hard at work educating their neighbors about the benefits of CPA, and are readying their get-out-the-vote plans. Here at the Community Preservation Coalition, we’ll be closely tracking the results on election night, and you can view the CPA election outcomes on our website.