Friday, April 5, 2002
Carlisle expects $216K in CPA matching funds from state
When the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) met on March 26, committee member and selectman Vivian Chaput announced that the town had assessed $215,758 in the first year of the Carlisle's Community Preservation Act (CPA) real estate tax surcharge, and the expected state 100% matching funds would bring the total to $431,516 (see CPA article). Committee members discussed and agreed on ways the CPA funds might be used to help the town meet long-term goals in affordable housing, recreation, preservation of historic sites and open space. The majority of CPC members spoke against proposed reductions in the CPA surcharge for FY03.
John Lee, representative from the conservation commission, suggested using CPA funds for a multi-use land project. In such a project, the town might buy a parcel of land, preserve the most important conservation resources of the site, and then use part of the land for affordable housing, recreation, or other municipal facilities. Lee urged that "they not spend the money until they find a project that meets as many of the town's stated goals as possible." Committee members agreed.
Chaput said that historic resources might not be included in a typical multi-use project. She suggested spending the 10% of CPA funds allocated specifically to historic resources, on historic preservation projects as they came up. An example was a request by the school and historic district commission for $4,000 to repair the roof of the brick school building. The CPC decided to investigate whether the project was eligible under the state CPA guidelines, and to ask the school to submit a written proposal.
Can the CPA be effective?
Questions were raised about how realistic it was to expect the CPA to help fund land acquisition, when after one year there will only be enough money to buy one two-acre building lot. Art Milliken, president of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), who was in the audience, said that (if the CPA was not cut) the town would raise a million dollars in two and a half years, "and then you can really start to talk about doing projects."
Committee members agreed that creativity would be needed. One way suggested to save money was to preserve open space acreage via conservation restrictions instead of outright acquisition. Another idea was to include market-rate housing, and use the profits from that to help pay for the rest of a multi-use project.
Jay Luby, another CCF member in the audience, said, "If the town doesn't set aside these funds, the landowners won't be willing to seriously negotiate with the town. Landowners will doubt that the town will easily vote to spend to buy a chunk of land for open space, with all the other budget demands in the coming years."
Differences between CPA and conservation funds
Lee called the CPA a "bank account" for funding preservation of open space. He said the town's conservation fund (at about $100,000) is smaller, and is designed to cover "short-term" expenses involved in land preservation, such as surveys, or options. These expenses often must be paid quickly, in order to give the town an opportunity to vote on acquiring a property at the next Town Meeting. CPA funds, on the other hand, cannot be spent until after a Town Meeting gives authorization. The CPA receives matching funding from the state, while the conservation fund does not.
Reaction to proposed cuts to CPA
Chaput said that the selectmen were placing an article on the Warrant for Town Meeting to reduce the CPA surcharge from the current 2% down to 1%. She said that the selectmen felt they needed to recommend this reduction, because of the budget crisis in town, with every department experiencing cuts. Two other CPA-reduction warrant articles have been submitted by petition, one proposing the surcharge be reduced to 1.5%, and the other warrant article proposing a reduction to 0.01%, the minimum fee allowed during the first five years after a town has voted to authorize the CPA.
No one on the CPC, other than Chaput, spoke in favor of reducing the CPA surcharge. CPC member Kate Reid said that the planning board has written a letter to the selectmen in support of keeping the CPA at 2%. Lee said the conscom also supported the 2% level. Recreation commission member Michael Brophy said that because of the state matching funds, cutting the CPA was in effect reducing a revenue source for the town. Chaput suggested the CPC develop a formal recommendation at their next meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday, April 17, at 8 p.m.
For more information describing the Community Preservation Act in Carlisle, see last year's "Town Meeting votes 2% tax surcharge for community preservation" in the March 13, 2001 issue of the Mosquito (available on the web in the archives section of www.carlislemosquito.org, or search for "Community Preservation Act" on the same site for more articles.)
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito