SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 12, 2012

CPA: What's next for Salem, Beverly

By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — City leaders in Salem and Beverly have some decisions to make, after voters of both towns adopted the Community Preservation Act at the polls Tuesday.

The CPA allows cities and towns to add a surcharge on the property tax to benefit projects that create or improve recreation, open space, affordable housing or historic preservation. The extra money raised is matched — the percentage varies each year — with state funds.

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

This means both cities can begin CPA projects on July 1, 2013, said Mickey Northcutt, a Salem resident who helped organize the campaign to pass the measure in Salem.

But first, Beverly and Salem must each form a CPA committee, a five- to nine-member board required by state law to vet each potential project.

The first five members must come from existing city boards: the historical commission, parks and recreation board, housing authority, conservation commission, and planning board.

If a city decides to have more than five members, the extra members could be appointed by the mayor or city council, elected or found by other methods.

Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon said he’ll discuss the possibilities of a CPA committee with his staff in the next few days, and with the City Council as soon as possible.

“We’ll get at it quite soon,” Scanlon said. “(We want) to get a lot of balance in what we might spend the money on. ... There are many things that would be worthy projects, but that’s what the committee would be for.”

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll also said she plans to begin CPA discussions soon.

“We need to sit down with the City Council to develop it,” Driscoll said. “My sense would be to have a larger group, and hopefully make it as representative as possible. We need to have a dialogue with the City Council to come up with a plan for the committee, as well as a CPA ordinance.”

“I’m very excited and happy that we’re having this dialogue,” she added.

Five percent of the CPA money collected by a municipality can be used to cover administrative costs; some cities use this to create and hire a department to manage CPA projects.

Northcutt is director of the Salem Community Preservation Alliance, a group of volunteers that includes Driscoll. Professionally, he is director of the North Shore Community Development Coalition, which develops and manages affordable housing in Salem and Beverly.

Northcutt said the alliance will continue to be involved as committees are formed. Members of the group may be interested in being on a CPA committee, and several already sit on the applicable city boards, he said.

“We’d like to see it done right away,” Northcutt said. “We plan to be engaged in the process. I know there’s a lot of people interested in seeing this come through.”

In both cities, the CPA tax surcharge will be 1 percent.

Exemptions will be made for homeowners who qualify for low-income housing and for seniors who qualify for low- or moderate-income housing.

In all cases, the first $100,000 of property valuation is exempt from the surcharge. For example, the CPA surcharge would be applied only to $200,000 of a building assessed at $300,000.

“Today it’s a day to accept the fact that (the CPA) passed,” Scanlon said following the election. “Over the course of time, we’ll be able to do very worthwhile things that we wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.