CPA Up For A Vote
By Sean Sullivan
To preserve or not to preserve – that is the question.
And Natick residents will give answer this fall, as they head to the polls to vote up or down on the Community Preservation Act.
The CPA is a state law aimed at incentivizing local governments to undertake the creation or preservation of open-space, historic and recreation projects, as well as community-housing developments.
The program promises state funds toward such investments, proffering a certain percentage of the money raised by local municipalities.
So, to pay or not to pay - that too is a major factor that will go into the decision-making process of voters weighing the CPA at the ballot box. The CPA is funded by a surcharge on property taxes of up to 3%. Municipalities can choose that percentage via the voting process, and Natick’s measure has been set at a 1% surcharge. Under Natick’s plan, the first $100,000 of residential property valuations would be exempt from the surcharge. Natick’s proposal would also make exceptions for lower-income and senior homeowners.
The CPA allows local governments to create a fund fed by the surcharge. Money raised by Natick through the program would then be “matched” each year by Massachusetts. It’s not a one-to-one matching program. Rather, the state’s rate of matching tends to be in the neighborhood of one-quarter to one-third of local dollars raised.
A CPA study estimated that the average additional cost per year for home and property owners would be between $68 and $78 per year. After Massachusetts matching funds are factored in, according to the study, Natick could expect to generate about $1.4 million annually for approved preservation projects.
Natick residents will have the chance to vote on the measure on Nov. 8.
By a solid margin, Framingham voted in 2020 to approve taking part in the CPA. Theirs was a 2% surcharge on property taxes - double what’s being proposed in Natick. The home of the Redhawks is surrounded by towns that have signed onto the CPA, a roster that includes Wellesley, Weston, Wayland and Ashland.
The CPA was launched in 2000, and the number of Massachusetts communities that signed on to the program is nearing 200. Wellesley approved joining the program in 2002, with the same surcharge rate being proposed in Natick.
Should the measure be approved by voters, a Community Preservation Committee would be established to oversee the program and serve as liaison to the state. The CPC would be made up of between five to nine members, and would include a representative from the Historical, Conservation and Park commissions, as well as the Planning Board and Housing Authority. The remaining four optional slots of the CPC could be appointed or elected at the town’s discretion.
The committee’s main role would be to receive, review and recommend community projects eligible for Community Preservation Funds. Those projects would then be forwarded to Natick legislators for approval. To be eligible for CPA funding, projects must be approved by local legislators and must fall within categories stipulated by the state in the statute.
The state requires communities participating in the program to spend at least 10% of its fund on each of the following three project areas: historic preservation, affordable housing, and open spaces. Funds that aren’t spent during the fiscal year may be banked for use in subsequent years, provided they are still allocated according to state Community Preservation Act guidelines.