SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 31, 2012

Scanlon voices support for CPA

BY PAUL LEIGHTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon has come out in favor of the Community Preservation Act, lending last-minute support to the ballot question that voters will consider on Tuesday.

Scanlon announced his position on his Facebook page. He said he is backing the CPA not as the mayor but as an individual.

“As an individual, I support the CPA because it will help make Beverly an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” he wrote.

The Community Preservation Act is a state law that allows communities to add a surcharge on property taxes to raise money for open space and recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing.

The Beverly proposal calls for a 1 percent surcharge, which supporters say would cost most homeowners between $26 and $39 per year.

Scanlon said he decided to express his support publicly because he wanted to let people know that residents are losing out on money that they are already contributing to the CPA trust fund.

The trust fund is funded by mandatory fees collected on real estate property transfers at the state’s registries of deeds — $20 for deeds and $10 for municipal lien certificates whenever a property is sold, refinanced or otherwise transferred.

If communities adopt the CPA, the state provides matching funds from money raised by those fees. Scanlon said that aspect of the CPA is “not well-understood.”

“I wanted people to realize that we were subsidizing our neighbors, particularly towns that are generally more affluent than cities,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Scanlon said he has not offered advice on the CPA as mayor because it is a tax, “although a small one intended for very good purposes,” but he supports the measure as an individual.

Asked about the distinction, Scanlon said, “As mayor, I want the people to decide this for themselves and I don’t want to be seen as an advocate. But I did want to perhaps further their understanding, especially on the state match.”

Asked if he would be viewed as an advocate either way, Scanlon said, “I’m trying to be an informer.”

Scanlon said he also supported the CPA the last time it was on the ballot in Beverly, in 2001, when it lost by a 60-40 margin. That proposal called for a 3 percent surcharge.

Robert Buchsbaum of Community Preservation Beverly, a citizens group that is advocating for the CPA, said the group is “very pleased” with Scanlon’s support.

“In many cases and in many towns, political leaders really haven’t come forward one way or the other, so in that sense I think it’s nice that he says he supports it, at least personally,” Buchsbaum said.

Elliott Margolis, the leader of a citizens group that opposes the CPA, said he is not surprised by Scanlon’s support of the measure.

“When you have a mayor and a City Council that is afraid to find ways to cut spending, the only way they can continue doing what they want to do is to find other ways to get money out of Beverly residents,” Margolis said.

The CPA is also on the ballot in Salem, where Mayor Kim Driscoll has publicly supported it.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.