DANVERS — Residents rejected adopting the Community Preservation Act in Danvers by a wide margin on Tuesday.
Former Selectman Mark Zuberek, who, along with former Selectman Keith Lucy, helped spearhead the No CPA in Danvers ballot committee, said it was simple why Danvers voters rejected the measure. The vote was 5,898 'yes' and 8,987 'no.' The no vote got 60 percent, in unofficial results.
"This was a very difficult decision that the Board of Selectmen went for extra money," Zuberek said. "Tax revenue. All they are looking for is tax revenue. And what we need to do is have the selectmen work harder to make the budget fall in line with what the taxpayers are already paying.
"Taxpayers are paying enough, no more taxes," he said. "This is the time to work harder instead of asking everybody for money."
Lucy, speaking at the group's victory party at the Knights of Columbus hall on Elm Street, said opponents were looking at the issue like a "third override attempt just like the other two failed." He was referring to two failed overrides to build a middle and a high school. The projects were funded within the town budget instead.
He said if the town can fund a $70 million high school renovation and a $30 million renovation, then it could fund some of the smaller historical preservation or rail trail projects — within the town budget — proponents of the CPA were eyeing.
"We are looking to work with the advocates to fund some of the projects," he said.
"My thoughts are that it's always easier to say 'Vote no' against a tax," said former state Rep. Sally Kerans, who was the chairwoman of the effort to pass the CPA.
She said her group, Community Preservation Danvers, failed to reach enough voters to sway them. "I feel great about the effort we waged," Kerans said. "I truly do. We had a wonderful team, and we were outspent, and we just worked very steadily to make people aware of how CPA could benefit our town, (but) it was just not a sufficient effort to reach enough people."
The question revolved around whether the town wanted to adopt a 1.5 percent surcharge on property taxes to gather funds for historic preservation, recreational parks and fields, open space acquisition and affordable housing projects. Amesbury was also voting on the measure Tuesday.
The measure, if passed, would exempt the first $100,000 of a person's property value, and there are also exemptions for low- to moderate-income seniors and low-income households. It was estimated the average single-family homeowner with a house assessed at $392,000 would pay $62 a year in extra taxes, or $15.57 per quarter.
The measure, which passed Town Meeting in May before heading to voters, drew its share of passionate supporters and detractors.
Two ballot question committees formed and residents wrote numerous letters to the editor both for and against the measure.
Opponents claimed the town was fiscally well managed and had free cash and other reserves enough so that some of that money could go to pay for projects instead of the CPA. They have said the match from the state has shrunk over the years, and that if more communities join, it will further dilute what is left in the state trust fund.
Proponents argued the town has money tied up in stabilization accounts for school building construction and equipment. They said it could help preserve the town's landmark Peabody Institute Library or the Rebecca Nurse Homestead on Pine Street or add trails to Lebel's Grove.
Voting in Danvers was busy, despite nearly 35 percent of the town's 20,000 registered voters having turned out for early voting. Total turnout was approximately 77 percent percent in town.
Town Clerk Joseph Collins said the line was a couple hundred yards long in the high school when the polls opened at 7 a.m., but the lines cleared relatively quickly. Late in the day, poll workers had trouble with a machine in Precinct 7, but officials were able to quickly swap it out and continue the counting. Results of the election started coming just after 8 p.m.
"It's been a busy day," Collins said, "and we just want to get it wrapped up and get everyone home."
"Thank God," said John Pelletier, when it was noted he was one of the last voters to vote in Danvers, and the election was over at last.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.