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Local News

August 24, 2012

Salem council sinks CPA 6-5 vote keeps preservation act off fall ballot

SALEM — City councilors voted last night against putting the Community Preservation Act on Salem's ballot in November.

For now, the council's vote keeps residents from deciding whether or not to adopt the CPA, a state law that 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.

Last night's council vote was 6-5, with Councilors Joseph O'Keefe, Paul Prevey, Jerry Ryan, Arthur Sargent, Todd Siegel and Michael Sosnowski voting against putting the CPA on the ballot. The motion needed six votes to pass.

Although the CPA allows a property tax surcharge of up to 3 percent, it was proposed for 1 percent in Salem, which Mayor Kim Driscoll said would have raised at least $400,000 annually. Exemptions would be made for homeowners who qualify for low-income housing and for seniors who qualify for low- or moderate-income housing.

The first $100,000 valuation on residential, commercial or industrial property is exempt from the surcharge. The tax is assessed only on the amount of valuation over $100,000.

For the average Salem home, valued at close to $294,000, the 1 percent increase would have meant an extra $30 annually, Driscoll said.

"Whether your support (the CPA) or not, I urge you to put it on the ballot," Driscoll told the council. "... Let people have their say."

Councilors Sargent and Ryan questioned why communities have to raise taxes to tap into the state's CPA funding.

"In some ways, it's a camouflaged Proposition 2 1/2 override," said Sargent. "Why does it have to be more on the backs of people that are already paying (taxes)?"

Sargent said he could not support putting the CPA on the ballot because it would mean that residents who don't own property would get to vote on whether to increase property taxes. It's unfair, he said, that only some residents would pay the surcharge.

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