By Elizabeth Hacala
At their September 23 meeting the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted to recommend that the Special Fall Town meeting approve continuation of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge. The Community Preservation Act is a Massachusetts law passed in September 2000. The Act allows town and cities in Massachusetts to approve a real estate tax surcharge of up to 3 percent, the funds to be used for historic preservation, affordable housing, open space, or recreational projects. Town meeting votes each fall on whether or not to continue the 3 percent surcharge.
The funds raised by the city or town are matched by funds collected at the state level through Registry of Deeds fees. For several years Bedford enjoyed a 100 percent match of CPA funds. As more communities adopted the CPA and the economy slowed, the match rate dropped to a little over 26 percent. In 2012, Governor Patrick signed an update to CPAwhich provided additional monies to the CPA trust. Last year this change resulted in $25 million from the state’s budget surplus being added to the CPA trust. As a result, the towns and cities received a match of 52.23 percent on CPA funds, the highest since 2008.
Bedford adopted the CPA in March of 2001 through a vote of town meeting and town election vote. Bedford exempts the taxes paid on the first $100,000 in residential property value from the surcharge and offers an exemption for low income residents. The surcharge was first collected in FY 2002 and the first matches the following year. Unlike most municipal funds, the CPC is allowed to roll funds over from one year to the next, enabling the committee to build up funds for large projects when needed. The impact of Community Preservation can be seen across town from Old Town Hall renovation, to open space land acquisitions; from the skate park behind town center, to Springs Brook Park renovations; from the preservation of Job Lane House to Shawsheen pump house restoration.