Marion Community Preservation Committee

To the Editor;

            I have been a member of the Marion Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for the past 9 years, its Chair for the past 6 years. I understand that there was a great deal of discussion regarding the CPA articles and process at our recent Annual Town Meeting. Unfortunately, I was traveling on business and unable to attend the May 8 meeting and would like to provide some additional detail.

            Marion adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in May 2005, replacing a historical 2% tax surcharge that was used to fund the Land Bank with a 2% surcharge funding the CPA. The CPA surcharge includes an exemption for the first $100,000 of assessed value. In the 19 years since Marion’s adoption of the CPA, tax surcharges have totaled $5.15M and Marion received a total of $1.83M in state matching funds. The state match varies and has ranged from 100% to 17%.

            The CPC is composed of representatives of 7 Town boards: Conservation, Planning, Select Board, Open Space, Affordable Housing, Historical and Recreation. The CPC, coordinates the applications process and makes recommendations at Town Meeting, with voters making the final funding decision. For the season just completed we held five open meetings, the last a public hearing. The articles were also reviewed at the Select Board’s May 2 meeting.

            Town meetings have funded 77 CPA projects with a total value of $6.53M. The remaining CPA balance is $478k. I have grouped these 77 awards into 11 categories:

-Restore Town Buildings – 13 projects, $2.57M

-Restore Private Buildings – 6 projects, $311k

-Land Acquisition – 3 projects, $507k

-Open Space Planning – 3 projects, $16k

-Watershed Protection – 3 projects, $170k

-Pathways – 3 projects, $636k

-Recreation – 19 projects, $511k

-Veterans’ Graves – 3 projects, $21k

-Document/Artifact Catalog, Preserve – 12 projects, $399k

-Affordable Housing – 8 projects, $1.23M

-Other – 4 projects, $152k

            Marion’s exit from CPA is a complex question. While a CPA exit would eliminate the 2% tax surcharge, this action would also end the state match – $1.83M over the past 19 years. If Marion exits the CPA how would the projects funded by the CPA be financed? More than 93% of CPA monies were used to fund Town properties and projects ($6.1M). These projects would have to be included in the Town’s conventional operating or capital budgets, wait for the generosity of outside groups, or be deferred for later decision. Unless one argues that most CPA projects are unnecessary, exiting the CPA would likely increase taxes because of the loss of the State match. If projects proposed for CPA funding are not worthwhile, they should be voted down at Town Meeting. During the last 10 years I recall only one project that was rejected with few articles generating any questions.

            My opinion, and I am speaking as a citizen, not on behalf of the CPC, is that the CPA is a valued resource that provides an alternative funding process, supported partially by State funds, that remains in full control of the voters. The Town House provides an example of the value of CPA funding. The Town House was the victim of 50 years of deferred maintenance, and recent failed attempts to restore or replace the building through conventional funding. CPA monies, with some supplemental private funds, restored at least the outside of the building and made it an asset to the Town.

            My suggestion is that we retain the CPA and that interested townspeople become active in the entire funding process. We would welcome the participation of interested citizens throughout the process.

Jeff Doubrava, Marion

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