SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

October 18, 2012

CPA faces grilling at forum

Residents on both sides give their take on ballot question

SALEM — If the Community Preservation Act, a local ballot question in Salem, is going to be approved by voters in the Nov. 6 state election, it will have to fare a lot better than it did last night at a forum at the Moose Family Center.

Although the evening was billed as an information session and not a debate, some of the nearly 100 residents who attended had trouble keeping their opinions to themselves.

“What is it about ‘no more taxes’ that isn’t understood?” resident Tim Doggett asked near the end of the 90-minute program. “We don’t want any more taxes, period.”

Moments later, Pam Lombardini, a North Salem resident, raised her hand to speak.

“I can’t afford any more (taxes) — I’m done,” she said emphatically.

The Community Preservation Act, passed into law in 2000, allows communities to assess residents a “surcharge” of up to 3 percent on their property tax bills and use that money, plus state matching funds, to fix playgrounds, restore historic properties and support affordable housing. So far, 148 communities around the state have signed on.

In Salem, residents are being asked to approve a lesser amount, a 1 percent surcharge, which would amount to $30 for the average single-family home, according to city officials.

Overall, the CPA is expected to generate about $400,000 in Salem, which would be increased by state matching funds, for an estimated total of anywhere from $480,000 to $600,000.

Not everyone would have to pay the surcharge, CPA supporters stress.

Some residents, especially the low-income, elderly or those already receiving tax abatements, would be exempt or would pay a reduced fee. For everyone, the first $100,000 of property value would not count toward the surcharge.

The money can be used for to acquire open space, including land for parks or conservation; to fix up local playgrounds and athletic fields; to preserve or restore historic buildings; and to support affordable housing.

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