Community Preservation Act

To the Editor:

On Monday, November 25, those of us in Rochester will have a chance to approve – or knock down – a motion to put the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on the town ballot for the spring.

The CPA uses a combination of a local property tax surcharge and a statewide funding pool to pay for certain projects that can enrich a community’s quality of life, but often never make it to the top of the list in any given budget cycle. These include preserving historical assets and green spaces, enhancing recreational opportunities, and creating innovative forms of moderate-income housing.

Resistance to additional taxes is easy to understand. But because of the way CPA funding works, opposing this particular tax would be “penny wise and pound foolish,” as the saying goes.

First, unlike other local taxes, the surcharge triggers a sizable chunk of money coming to the town from the statewide fund. This year, a town that raised $100,000 through the local surcharge will get another $52,000 in matching funds. That’s a total kitty of $152,000. Where else does that happen? The CPA fund can also be used as matching money to get substantial grants from private and public sources.

The spending side also works very differently. You may have an idea on how to spend the state sales tax, excise tax, or income tax, but who are you going to tell? Who’s going to listen? Other than electing people who share your general outlook, you have no input. You don’t get to develop ideas or submit proposals and you don’t get to vote on individual projects. With CPA, you can do both of these.

Another difference between CPA funds and other state or municipal funds: CPA money is not subject to the “use it or lose it” limitations of fiscal year budgeting. CPA money can be left to grow from one year to another. That makes it possible to save and plan for larger projects.

On your way to town meeting at Memorial School, you may pass signs advocating “no new taxes.” I hope we’ll all weigh that point of view against the benefits this small surcharge could bring Rochester: recreational opportunities such as riding trails, bike trails, parks and playgrounds; farm land and other open spaces protected from development; historic buildings, landscapes, papers, and objects preserved for future generations; affordable housing options for seniors, veterans, and moderate-income residents.

Let’s not miss out on an opportunity to get a lot for a little!

Mary McCann Fiske



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