Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr is calling on Senate budget writers to expand the scope of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and provide increased state matching funds for cities and towns that participate in the program.
In a letter hand-delivered to Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer today, Tarr has requested that the committee’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal – set for release on May 16 – include the same CPA changes adopted by the House of Representatives during its budget deliberations last month. The bipartisan letter was signed by 12 other senators, including three Republicans and nine Democrats.
“It’s important for the Senate to engage in the process of reforming and reinvigorating the Community Preservation Act to spur economic growth and protect our precious natural resources and assets,” said Tarr. “With this letter, my colleagues and I are expressing our desire to retain these same important reforms in the Senate’s budget to help advance preservation efforts and promote economic growth at the municipal level.”
Established by the Legislature in 2000, the CPA was designed to preserve open space, housing and the rehabilitation of historic properties. Cities and towns that participate in the program can impose a property tax surcharge of up to 3 percent to pay for these efforts, with the state providing additional matching funds collected through fees assessed on deeds. Although the original goal of the CPA was for the state to provide 100 percent matching funds to municipalities, the state currently matches only 22 cents of every dollar spent locally.
Tarr supports the adoption of reform language that would:
• expand the scope of the program by allowing communities to access CPA funding for the rehabilitation of existing athletic fields, parks and playgrounds;
• increase state matching funds by up to $25 million, using surplus revenue from the Fiscal Year 2012 budget;
• provide municipalities with greater flexibility to fund their participation in the CPA program through revenue sources outside of the existing property tax surcharge, such as hotel excise taxes, linkage fee and inclusionary zoning payments, the sale of municipal property, parking fines, and gifts received from private sources for community preservation purposes; and
• give communities the option to establish a CPA property tax exemption for small businesses on the first $100,000 of property value, allowing employers to invest more money in their business and create jobs.
“Given the importance of these changes to the CPA for cities and towns all across the Commonwealth, we believe that it is imperative for the Senate to act favorably and expeditiously to advance them through inclusion in the Ways and Means budget proposal,” the letter states. “Taken together, they have tremendous potential to spur economic growth, revitalize precious assets, and promote environmental stewardship in practical, effective ways.”