Oct. 28, 2014: The article below was featured on www.conservationcampaign.org about the CPA ballot election campaign in Berkley.
About the Campaign
At their June annual town meeting, Berkley residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of a November 4th ballot question on adopting the Community Preservation Act (CPA) with a 1 % surcharge on local real estate tax bills.
The CPA allows cities and towns to approve a surcharge of up to 3% on local property tax bills and create 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, playgrounds, athletic fields, and other recreation areas, a popular use of the program’s funds.
So far, 155 Massachusetts municipalities have adopted the CPA. Participating communities receive annual distributions from the state’s CPA Trust Fund based on local CPA revenues raised and the amount of funds available in the state’s Community Preservation Trust fund. And unlike disbursement funds in other states, the CPA Trust Fund is well funded. In June 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 its main revenue source, document recording fees charged at the state’s Registries of Deeds. These revenues have diminished in recent years with the decline in the real estate market.
In Berkley, the annual CPA surcharge for an average single family homeowner will be approximately $27. The first $100,000 of each homeowner’s assessed value will be exempt from the surcharge, as well as qualifying low income homeowners and qualifying low to moderate income senior homeowners.
All CPA projects must win the approval of Berkley Town Meeting following a thorough public review process. CPA helps make community projects more affordable, and leverages additional private, state and federal dollars for local projects. The law also does not compel communities to spend funds every year and revenue may be carried over from year to year.
What's At Stake
Berkley is the least populated town in Bristol County and one of the oldest communities in the state. CPA funds will help Berkley maintain its rural character, a community priority as growth and development occur at a rapid pace across the state. CPA revenue will also allow Berkley to preserve historic structures such as its municipal building, Congregational Church and help fund Historical Commission projects. While Berkley has demonstrated a commitment to conservation and open space, it has one of the lowest percentages of protected open space in Bristol County. Passage of CPA will help preserve farms and open space along the Taunton River, lands with some of the richest soil in the region.
If passed, the CPA surcharge is projected to raise roughly $64,000 each year in local CPA funds alone, and qualify the community to receive an annual CPA state match from the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund.
Berkley already understands the benefits of smart planning and innovative local funding for environmentally and fiscally beneficial projects. It operates multiple solar farms on town-owned land and is one of the top solar energy producers in the state. In addition to generating revenue for the town, these solar farms remove land from potential residential development that can encourage further sprawl and put a strain on town infrastructure.
The benefits of CPA have become increasingly apparent over the last decade, as neighboring towns--and nearly half the communities in the state--have combined locally raised CPA funds with the state match for numerous open space, recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing projects. Nearby municipalities, including Dighton, Rehoboth, Swansea, Middleborough and Somerset, 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.