, Salem, MA

October 1, 2012

Letter: CPA is no bargain for Salem

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Is it any wonder that citizens are cynical about government these days? Whether that point of view is aimed at local, state, or federal governments.

On Nov. 6, the election ballot in Salem will feature a question which will determine the fate of a new tax in Salem.

Yes, believe it or not, in the current economic climate property owners in Salem are being asked to pony up more cash to pay for a laundry list of projects.

The new tax is known as the Community Preservation Act. The intent of this measure is to provide funding for projects such as renovating historic buildings, maintaining parks and athletic fields, acquiring or preserving open space and creation of affordable housing.

Some may consider these projects worthy of our support. That matter will be sorted out at the polls.

The current proposal would require a 1% surcharge based upon a property owner’s annual tax bill, and

the state would provide matching funds.

Proponents of the CPA have not revealed that this tax could eventually be tripled up to 3%.

It strikes me as being patently unfair that this new levy is aimed solely at property owners. In some circles this legislation is regarded as an “end run” around Proposition 2 ½.

For those inclined to vote in support of this bill because they do not own property in Salem and therefore it is not “a tax on me,” consider this. Economic realities dictate that the costs incurred by the imposition of the CPA tax, will be passed on in terms of higher rents, costs of services originating in Salem and in the price of products sold here. There is no free lunch.

In addition, any “historic property”, open space or privately owned land or buildings acquired by the City of Salem will then be removed from the city’s tax rolls, resulting in even higher taxes for those citizens who still pay taxes.

In its insatiable appetite for any revenue stream, politicians will sometimes opt for sources which may not be in the best interests of the city or its inhabitants.

The old saying about the price of taking government money comes to mind here: “He who takes the king’s bread shall dance to the king’s tune”.

CPA rules will have to be adhered to if Salem accepts this measure. In a nutshell, that means the city’s bylaws and ordinances can be overridden if deemed necessary, regardless of the wishes of its inhabitants.

This new tax may be considered by some citizens to be reasonable and affordable, but to others who already are backed up against the wall by economic circumstances, it may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The government never seems to waver when it asks its citizens to tighten their belts, but asking the government to do with less is unthinkable.

I urge the good, hard-working citizens of Salem to refuse this so-called benefit by casting a loud and unmistakable"no" on the CPA question on Nov. 6.

R. Scott Hiltunen