Friday, February 11, 2005
Robbing CPA to pay 40R
Two weeks ago, in his budget for FY06, Governor Mitt Romney proposed adding $10 million to the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund, created last year under Chapter 40R. While we all agree with the principles of smart growth, it is unfortunate that the Governor wants to support the program by poaching the money from the state Community Preservation Act Fund (CPA).
Carlisle, as well as the other 74 Massachusetts communities that have voted to participate in the Community Preservation Act, is now very dependent on the promised matching funds from the state CPA Fund. Last spring the town purchased the Benfield Parcel A, with the specific intention of financing the $2 million debt with CPA moneys, collected through our 2% surtax on real estate as well as the 100% matching funds from the state. Approximately $400K of CPA money (including $200K from the state) goes to service this debt annually. To meet this obligation, we need CPA to remain healthy and well-funded for the next ten years.
The state CPA fund is funded through a $20 fee on all real estate transactions. The MetroWest Daily News has reported that the fees have generated twice the expected amount, while CPA adoption by Massachusetts towns and cities has been slower than expected. However, as interest rates rise, real estate sales may slow. If more communities join the CPA, especially large cities, the surplus may well be temporary.
Chapter 40R was passed into law in July 2004 and takes effect this month. The law encourages affordable housing production in "smart growth zoning districts," areas that already have a developed infrastructure, including access to transportation, town centers, commercial districts (jobs), and developable land. Chapter 40R encourages housing growth, without promoting sprawl and destroying open space and rural communities. The municipality receives "incentive payments" once a smart growth distric is approved and when a building permit for affordable units is issued. The state's Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund is funded by the sale of surplus state land. Unfortunately, the fund has not grown as expected due to slow sales of state land.
We should certainly do everything possible to encourage smart growth in Massachusetts. While the idea is smart, 40R is not perfect, as it does not offer any monetary compensation or other assistance to towns to deal with the consequence of growth, such as the burden on schools. Our representatives in the Legislature need to work on additional sources of funding for 40R. But, please, do not rob CPA.
Volunteerism in Carlisle
Today, February 11, is the annual Volunteer Appreciation Tea at the Carlisle School. But it's not just the school volunteers who should be appreciated. All aspects of town affairs are aided by volunteers, who contribute to making Carlisle a very special community.
In fact, our town is run by volunteers: the members of the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, the Planning Board, and all the other boards and committees, both elected and appointed. We are served by an on-call Fire Department, which is now a rare entity in this geographic area. When Marie Doyle, the school's new superintendent, first arrived last year, she commented on how amazed and impressed she was at the number of school volunteers. Many parents also volunteer in non-school activities in which their children participate, such as scouts, youth sports teams, and Destination Imagination. Volunteers lead religious education and other programs at our churches. Gleason Public Library relies upon volunteers to help re-shelve books and other materials. Even the Mosquito is largely run by volunteers.
As a teenager growing up in Carlisle, I did some volunteer work mainly because it would look good on college applications. Today's CCHS students are required to perform a minimum number of hours of community service in order to graduate. There is nothing wrong with teenagers having personal motives for volunteer work that are not exclusively altruistic. Adults, too, have self-serving reasons to take on their various volunteer activities.
Carlisle residents often join town committees because they want to have an impact on what is happening, or they want to see action taken on an issue sooner rather than later.
For example, they may want to have more of a say in how and where affordable housing will be constructed, where new ballfields and cell towers are located, or where pathways are built
Parents often volunteer in the schools to better know what is going on in the daily lives of their children, or to appease their young children. Without parent volunteers, many nonschool group activities would not be available to all age groups.
Citizens often volunteer in their places of worship for social contact with people of similar beliefs, and many choose to teach those beliefs and values to children of their community. Some volunteer their professional services, partly as a way of promoting themselves. The upcoming CSA auction is an opportunity for local professionals to volunteer their services as auction items. And then there are those of us who volunteer to be Forum writers for the Mosquito simply because we enjoy writing.
With all the Carlisle-based volunteer activities to engage in, I am always impressed when our townspeople find time to also volunteer in social action projects beyond Carlisle, such as open pantries, homeless shelters, and organizations that collect and distribute used clothing and household goods. These volunteers are truly altruistic.
Whether their motives are altruistic, self-serving, or a combination of both, volunteers should know that they are greatly appreciated. They take on unpaid work, and give up precious personal time, to help make our community better, rather than hope that someone else will do it for them.
© 2005 The