Special Town Meeting Votes to Maintain 3% Community Preservation Surcharge

Courtesy image (c) Margot Fleischman, 2016 all rights reserved
Courtesy image (c) Margot Fleischman, 2016 all rights reserved

By Meredith McCulloch

Voters at the November 9 Special Town Meeting voted to maintain a 3% surcharge on property taxes for support of Community Preservation projects.  The surcharge has been at that level since Bedford became the first town to adopt the new Community Preservation Act in 2001. Since that time the town has received $9,361,488 in matching funds from the state. Continuing the surcharge would add $227 to the average tax bill.  The first $100,000 of assessed value of each home is exempt from the surcharge.

Selectman Margot Fleischman, a member of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), presented the article and the Selectmen’s recommendation to approve continuation of the 3% surcharge. She added that 20% in state matching funds is projected for the upcoming year.  (For a description of the CPC and its purposes, see: https://www.bedfordma.gov/community-preservation-committee )

The Finance Committee reported that with seven members present, the Committee voted 6-0-1 to disapprove the article. The Finance Committee was also critical of the large balance in some accounts, such as affordable housing. Fleischman said those funds are being accumulated for potential large projects, including the Coast Guard Housing or affordable units at Bedford Village.

The Finance Committee moved that the percentage be reduced to 2%. It was pointed out that under the Community Preservation Act any change in the surcharge amount requires a general ballot on which all voters may approve or disapprove the change.

During discussion many voters spoke on the value of the CPC funds to the town. Elizabeth Hacala, 21 Fitchdale Avenue, a member of the first Bedford Community Preservation Committee, spoke passionately about how CPC funds helped bring Old Town Hall from disrepair to a restored useful and attractive historic property.

Rich Daugherty, 49 Elm Street commented, “This is the third time in recent years the Finance Committee has recommended reducing the surcharge.” He advocated keeping it as long as there are matching funds.  “Why stop now?” he asked.

Ellen Michaud, 15 Wildwood Drive, said she saw the CPC as an asset to the town. “It is used to preserve historic buildings, sidewalks…things that make Bedford a good place to live,” Michaud said.

The motion for the reduced 2% was defeated on a voice vote. Then the 3% surcharge was approved by a voice vote.

Under article 12 two amendments to the CPC FY17 budget were presented. One reduced by $38,000 a bond payment allocation for Liljegren Way fields. Due to a delay in the start of the project, the period of the bond was shortened. The second requested $40,000 for continuation of the Life Management pilot at affordable housing units. Both were approved by voice vote.

For the slide presentation from Special Town Meeting, click CPC presentation slides.

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