Friday, May 10, 2002
CPA surcharge remains 2%
After an hour of presentation and discussion, townspeople voted down all attempts to lower the Community Preservation Act (CPA) real estate tax surcharge.
The CPA was adopted at last spring's Town Meeting, when the surcharge rate was set at 2 percent. The first $100,000 of assessed value of real estate is exempt, as is property owned by anyone who would qualify for low income housing or any senior citizen who would qualify for low or moderate income housing. Money raised under the CPA surcharge is eligible for matching state funds, and is to be used for the preservation of open space or historic structures, affordable housing, or recreation. CPA money does not have to be spent in the year it is collected, and all expenditures must be approved by town meeting.
Articles 21, 22 and 23 proposed various cuts to the CPA, listed in order of decreasing cuts. All three articles were presented and debated prior to voting on any of them.
Article 21 was submitted to the warrant by petition, and was presented by John Kaufman of Heald Road. He modified his motion from the 0.01 percent printed in the warrant, to 0.5 percent, and explained that this change was on the advice of town counsel to avoid possible legal challenge. The state enabling legislation states that towns which adopt the CPA must wait at least five years before revoking it, and the 0.01 level might be judged to be tantamount to revocation. Kaufman explained the point of article 21 was to provide a choice to taxpayers who feel that taxes are too high. He said that while many believe that the CPA is a good thing, it is also flexible, in order to take into account the town's ability to fund it. Kaufman felt that in the current economic climate, the school's financial needs were more important than the CPA.
Article 22 proposed changing the CPA rate to 1 percent, and was presented by selectman Doug Stevenson. He said that the selectmen unanimously opposed article 21 at either the 0.01 or 0.5 rate. They unanimously supported article 22, and a 3-2 majority of the selectmen supported article 23. Stevenson believed in this very difficult year, when all town departments have undergone budget cuts, there was a question of fairness, and "at a minimum there should be a symbolic reduction of the tax surcharge."
Article 23 was presented by Art Milliken of Estabrook Road. He explained the source and security of the state matching funds, predicting that a high level (currently 100%) of matching funding would be available for at least several years. While he preferred keeping the CPA funding at 2percent, he offered article 23 as a more "responsible" cutback alternative.
The Carlisle Finance Committee (fincom) supported article 21, because they disagreed with the philosophy of setting aside "pots of money," especially when the town faces pressing short term needs, such as the school budget. Fincom chair Tony Allison said, "You are over-taxing yourself now, to tax yourself less someday in the future."
Caren Ponty, member of the Community Preservation Committee which serves to oversee the CPA funds, said the CPC intents to build up the fund as a long-term investment in the town's future. She pointed out that at the current rate, the surcharge is $125 a year on real estate assessed at $500,000. Ponty finished by saying that the CPC asked the town to vote down all three articles.
Kate Reid said that at their April 22 meeting, the planning board voted not to support any of the three articles, because they favor the 2 percent level.
Selectman John Ballantine reported that the municipal land committee also prefer the 2 percent level. He explained how this committee had spent three years studying current and future municipal needs for land. The committee concluded that, exclusive of open space preservation, the town would need 60 to 100 acres of land over the next 20 years to meet demands for school use, recreation fields, and affordable housing. The CPA provided a way to help the town finance future land purchases.
Many spoke in favor of keeping the CPA tax surcharge at two percent, but several also recommended reducing the surcharge.
Larry Bearfield of North Road, Chairman of the Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness, reminded people that real estate taxes are rising and said, "You need to do the math." Ralph Anderson of Baldwin Road recommended lowering the CPA to one percent, as did selectman Doug Stevenson. Selectman Vivian Chaput recommended the 1.5 percent level. Wayne Davis of Concord Street spoke in favor of keeping the CPA at two percent. Kaufman summed up the situation, "It's about priorities. Vote where your priorities lie."
Moderator Brophy declared that the vote for article 21 failed to carry by a show of hands. Tellers were asked to count the vote for article 22, which failed to carry, 86 to 118. After conferring briefly with Town Counsel, Brophy declared that article 23 also failed, without calling the tellers for a vote count. The CPA real estate tax surcharge will remain at two percent for the coming fiscal year.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito