The New Bedford CPA Campaign

Oct. 14, 2014: The article below was featured on about the CPA ballot election campaign in New Bedford.

New Bedford CPA CampaignAbout the Campaign

With unanimous support from the City Council, on July 31, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell signed a city ordinance placing the question of whether to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) with a 1.5% surcharge on local property taxes on the city’s November ballot.

CPA allows cities and towns to approve a surcharge of up to 3% on local property taxes 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. This is now a popular use of the program’s funds, especially in cities.

So far, 155 Massachusetts municipalities have adopted the Community Preservation Act. Eight more will vote on adoption measures this fall. 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. In June, the state legislature approved a $25 million transfer from the state’s budget surplus to the Trust Fund for the second year in a row, 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 New Bedford, the annual CPA surcharge for an average single-family home will be approximately $18. The average small business property owner would pay about $60 annually. The first $100,000 of both residential and commercial property value will be exempt, as well as qualifying low income homeowners and qualifying low to moderate income senior homeowners. Projects using CPA funds must win the approval of the City Council following a thorough public review process.

A coalition of more than 20 community organizations is supporting the campaign to adopt CPA. The Conservation Campaign is actively supporting the campaign and providing financial backing.

What's At Stake

Located along Buzzards Bay on the South Coast of Massachusetts, New Bedford is the state’s sixth largest city. Once one of the country’s two most important whaling ports, and still a major fishing port, it has rich historical resources, including its intact but threatened waterfront. A number of grassroots groups are actively working to redevelop the waterfront and restore other historic resources as part of an effort to bring in tourism and regenerate the economy after long decline.

Adopting CPA would generate more than $1 million annually in locally raised revenues alone to help preserve the city’s historic sites, revive the waterfront, and improve neighborhood parks and ballfields. Adoption of CPA will also bring construction jobs and new investment, factors that will increase property values and help eliminate blight.

New Bedford is the only community in the South Coast region that hasn’t adopted CPA. The nearby city of Fall River approved CPA in 2012.