, Salem, MA

October 19, 2012

Letter: CPA a wolf in sheep's clothing

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

They are coming for your money in the name of historic preservation, open space and affordable housing! The Community Preservation Act is a cleverly crafted piece of legislation that gives the cities and towns another option to collect additional money from their residents in the form of an additional 1 percent to 3 percent tax on our property taxes. In Beverly, Question 4 on the ballot gives each voter the opportunity to raise their own property taxes by 1 percent for five straight years. Is that what you want? If not, then vote No on Question 4.

Supporters of the CPA in their literature call this a surcharge and not a tax. They also point out that the state will contribute 22 percent to the money raised by this tax. Please note this state contribution has been in decline for several years. Are you getting a clearer picture of this money grab? Let’s see if I can’t provide additional clarity. Supporters say this is money that Beverly residents are paying without any return. Beverly’s Ward 3 City Councilor Wes Slate, a CPA supporter, said in The Salem News, “It gives us a way of funding projects that we probably never would be able to do out of the budget.” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, referring to the CPA for Salem, said in The Salem News, “It would be great to stretch our taxpayers’ dollars further.”

Since Proposition 21/2, the cities and towns have failed to address the system changes required to provide quality services at the lowest cost. Instead, cities like Beverly find themselves with close to 80 percent of their budgets going to salaries, health care costs and pensions. This doesn’t even touch the unfunded long-term pension and health care liabilities. Our state government is in the same situation and has cut back aid to the communities, but has helped create other ways for the cities and towns to raise taxes. In Beverly, we have the Water and Sewer Enterprise fund; the Trash Enterprise fee, and a recently imposed meals tax of three-quarters of a percent. And now the state has help to craft and promote the CPA as another fundraising tool for cities and towns to fleece their residents.

How are these fees and taxes working for you? The infrastructure of roads, bridges, building and services are all in decay, and it’s not from a lack of a revenue stream. The system has been broken for 40 years, and our elected officials have done little to address this situation other than dream up new ways to secure additional taxpayer funds for their spending habits. Let’s look at the CPA governess if you pass it. The local Community Preservation Fund will be a separate, dedicated fund managed by the Beverly city treasurer. The CPA calls for a Community Preservation Committee made up from five to nine members and must include a member from Parks and Recreation, the Conservation Commission, the Historic Commission, the Planning Board, and a person acting in the interest of affordable housing. All nice people, I am sure, but it sure looks like the wolves watching the henhouse. Where is your representation on this committee? Are you feeling better about where and how your money is going to be spent? If no, vote No on Question 4.

This is nothing more than a slush fund for the city. This is just another way for elected officials to raise taxes, while failing to properly address their public sector policies that are surely bankrupting the city of Beverly. Poor economic times continue to take a toll on the residents of Beverly. We have tightened our belts and tried to get our own houses in order. The elected officials of Beverly have done little to tighten their belts. So when I go to the polls on Election Day, I am voting NO on Question FOUR because as a councilor from Salem said recently, “CPA is a camouflaged Proposition 21/2 override tax.” It is that simple.

Jim Modugno