, Salem, MA

October 19, 2012

Letter: How well do you know the CPA?

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

On Nov. 6, if you are a resident of Beverly, you will be asked to vote on adopting the Community Preservation Act. How well do you know the CPA?

Adopting the CPA allows Beverly to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. If the act is adopted, Beverly will collect a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes (with exemptions) and the state will contribute matching funds to Beverly’s CPA fund.

Sixteen communities in Essex County have already adopted the CPA and put the funds to work preserving what makes their community special — conversion of a contaminated site to a park in Peabody, renovation of 80 affordable-housing units for seniors in Gloucester, restoration of a beautiful gazebo in Manchester, creation of a bike trail connecting the commuter rail station to downtown Newburyport. These 16 communities have already received $31.5 million in state matching funds.

Sounds good! How much will we pay? Most homeowners in Beverly will pay $26 to $39 per year based on 2012 assessed values. The median home value of $335,500 will result in a $31/year surcharge. There are exemptions for those who need it.

Exemptions? Yes! A senior (60-plus) living alone with income under $67,550 or two in a household with income under $77,200 will pay nothing. Income thresholds for non-seniors are $54,040 for one, $67,760 for two. For everyone, the first $100,000 of home value is exempt.

What’s the state match? For this year’s distribution, the state match is just under 27 percent.

Can the surcharge change? It cannot change for five years. After that, changing it requires another ballot question that you get to vote on. The surcharge can go down to zero or up to 3 percent, but it cannot go higher than 3 percent.

Who controls the money? Beverly must form a Community Preservation Committee. The committee will consist of Beverly citizens — representatives from five boards and commissions, plus up to four additional citizens. These people are volunteers. The committee reviews suggestions for projects from Beverly citizens and groups and forwards recommendations to the City Council. The City Council approves expenditures.

What will CPA funds be used for? CPA funds will be used for three purposes: open space protection, community housing and historic preservation. Ten percent of the funds must be allocated to each of the three categories. The remaining 70 percent can be used for any of the categories, as well as for recreation projects. Funds can’t be used for things outside of these categories. The renovation of the affordable units for seniors in Gloucester is an example of affordable housing supported by CPA.

Ready? Vote yes on 4!

Suzie LaMont