April 23 2018

Selectmen Hear Presentation on Community Preservation Act

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington government leaders may consider a proposal from a group of residents to enter into a state program that focuses on creating and preserving open space, affordable housing, recreational facilities and historic sites.

 

At a recent Board of Selectmen members a handful of residents were on hand to give a presentation of the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The way the program works is that, if approved by Town Meeting, a surcharge would be added to all real estate tax bills, with a maximum addition of 3 percent. The state then provides a match of a percentage of the town contribution as an incentive to join the program. In 2018 communities who contribute less than 3 percent will get 11.5 percent of the total from the state. The communities who do the 3-percent maximum will get an additional 2 percent match.

 

The Community Preservation Act requires municipalities to set aside at least 10 percent of the funds in a reserve account for each of the following categories: open space/recreation, historic preservation, and community housing. The remaining 70 percent of the funds are undesignated and can be used for any allowable project. Up to five percent of the funds may be used for the administrative expenses.

 

“Our CPA funds may be spent on the acquisition of land, create and preservation of open space, community housing and active and passive recreation facilities,” said Larry Cohen, who was giving the presentation. “Funds could also be used for historic preservation.”

 

Concerns over hitting people with a higher tax bill can be somewhat mitigated in the program. It is possible to exempt low-income persons and low/moderate-income seniors from the CPA surcharge. Another common exemption is an option to exclude the first $100,000 of taxable value automatically on residential real estate tax bills.

 

The program has been widely used in some communities, Cohen said. Statewide over $1,93 billion has been raised to date for more than 9,900 projects. More than 4,800 affordable housing units have been created. About 27,000 acres of open space have been preserved and over 4,750 appropriations have been made for historic preservation projects. Over 1,950 outdoor recreation projects have been initiated. Many area town are in the program.

 

“Our next door neighbor, the Town of Bedford has used CPA funds to design and construct athletic fields near their high school and reconstruction of tennis courts near their middle school, reconstruct an historical stone wall and preservation of gravestones at their Old Burial Ground,” Cohen told the board.

 

Members of the Board of Selectmen said they were interested in learning more about the project and hope to discuss it further at future meetings. No decision has been made at this time.


 

 
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