SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 6, 2012

CPA passes in Salem, Beverly

BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — SALEM — The second time proved a charm as the Community Preservation Act was approved last night in both Salem and Beverly.

Salem voters passed a CPA ballot question by more than 1,500 votes, while Beverly adopted it by nearly 900 votes.

How the North Shore Voted: CPA (Beverly and Salem)

The CPA lost resoundingly in Beverly in 2001 and went down to defeat in Salem in 2007.

The controversial measure asks voters to approve a small property tax surcharge, which triggers state matching funds, to support open space acquisition, historic preservation, improved playgrounds and affordable housing.

“It’s fantastic,” said Mickey Northcutt, the chairman of the Salem Community Preservation Alliance, a group of about 35 volunteers, including Mayor Kim Driscoll, who backed the ballot question. “We didn’t expect this significant a margin.”

Northcutt said they expected the CPA to do well with the large turnout for a presidential and congressional election.

“That’s why we felt strongly we wanted to put it on the ballot,” he said.

In 2007, when the CPA lost in Salem, there was an unusually low voter turnout, he said.

“Everyone is thrilled,” said Robert Buchsbaum, a member of Community Preservation Beverly. “It’s a great reflection of Beverly people. Obviously, they voted for their community.”

Backers in both cities said the vote reflects pride in local communities and a recognition that the CPA represents an opportunity to preserve what is best in the two historic, seaport cities.

Although Beverly voters rejected the CPA in 2001, it was a different proposition then. In that election, the ballot question sought a 3 percent surcharge on property taxes. This year, both Salem and Beverly asked for 1 percent surcharges.

Since the CPA became law in 2000, it has been adopted by 148 communities, or 42 percent of the state. There is a large cluster of CPA communities on Cape Cod and the islands.

The law allows cities and towns to create a Community Preservation Fund that can be used for historic preservation, affordable housing, open space and outdoor recreation.

It is funded by a surcharge of from 1 percent to 3 percent on property tax bills and by state matching funds, most of which come from real estate transaction fees paid to the state’s registries of deeds.

Both ballot questions included exemptions for the first $100,000 of property valuation, for low-income residents and others.

Beverly Community Preservation, backers of the measure in that city, estimated that it would raise about $750,000 per year, of which $600,000 would come from property tax surcharges. The majority of property owners would pay between $40 and $50 per year, the group said.

In Salem, backers estimated that it would cost the average homeowner about $30 a year and would raise up to $600,000, including the state match.

Potential projects included the carriage house at Lynch Park in Beverly and renovations on Salem’s historic City Hall.

Nine communities statewide voted on CPA ballot questions yesterday. Results from the others were not available last night.

Local CPA communities include Peabody, Middleton, Hamilton and Wenham.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.