SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election Forum

October 29, 2012

Our view: Yes on the Community Preservation Act

Great communities don’t happen by accident. They are a combination of vision, planning and investment. On Nov. 6, residents of Salem and Beverly will have a chance to make such an investment with a vote in favor of the Community Preservation Act. We urge a yes vote in both cities.

The law provides for a small surcharge on the property tax (1 percent in both communities), to be put aside for open space, parks and playgrounds, affordable housing, and historic preservation. The extra tax would cost the average homeowner in both cities somewhere around $30 a year.

(The Community Preservation Act is Question 4 on both ballots. That both cities are deciding on the issue is coincidental; the votes are not linked, and each community is making its own decision.)

Yes, this is a tax. But it is an exceedingly small amount of money — about $2.50 a month. And there are built-in exemptions for low-income homeowners and some seniors. Under Beverly’s proposal, for example, a senior living alone with income under $67,550 would pay nothing. The income threshold for non-seniors is $54,040. For everyone, the first $100,000 of home value is exempt.

What’s more, a certain percentage of the community’s investment is matched by the state. This year, the match is a little more than 25 percent. If you can find an investment anywhere that brings a return of 25 percent, take it.

The CPA is not a new, untested program. It has a long record of success in the local communities that have adopted it, including Hamilton, Wenham, Middleton, Gloucester and Peabody.

“Everybody knows it’s a tax,” former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti told reporter Jesse Roman earlier this month. (Peabody adopted the Community Preservation Act more than a decade ago). “But it’s a relatively small tax targeted at things the community really needs.”

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