Friday, October 28, 2005
State gives Carlisle $271,000 in CPA matching funds
Last week Carlisle received a check from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) for $270,723, matching dollar-for-dollar money raised locally during FY05 under the Community Preservation Act (CPA) real-estate tax surcharge. The prospect of matching funds was an attraction for many when Carlisle voters adopted the 2% surcharge in 2001. To date we have received a total of $986,529 in matching funds.
How CPA funds are used
At least 10% of the CPA annual revenue must be set aside for projects relating to open space preservation,10% for the preservation of historic buildings and landscapes, and 10% for community affordable housing. The overall Community Preservation Fund is divided into separate reserve funds to keep track of these allotments. The remaining money (up to 70%) may be spent for any combination of these purposes, as well as public recreation, and is assigned to the "undesignated fund." (The current fund balances are listed in Table 2.) Annual Town Meeting votes to appropriate CPA funds equal to the anticipated revenues to be available for use along with money saved from previous years in the CPA reserve funds. As of this week, the total CPA funds available include $277,816 in Town Meeting authorization and $789,322 from the reserve funds.
Project applicatons are reviewed by a seven-member Community Preservation
Committee (CPC) which consists of one at-large member and representatives
from the Board of Selectmen, Conservation Commission, Historic Commission,
Housing Authority, Planning Board and Recreation Commission. The current
members are: Caren Ponty (chair), Allen Deary, Larry Sorli, John Lee,
Steve Pearlman and Kent Gonzales.
Town Meeting votes all spending
Only Town Meeting can authorize the spending of CPA money. In 2004, Carlisle began to dip into the Community Preservation Fund, and the largest project it has been used for is the town's acquisition of the Benfield Land on South Street. Carlisle has spent about $832,000 so far for principal and interest on the $2 million land purchase. The March 24, 2004 Town Meeting voted that principal and interest would be paid from the Community Preservation Fund, and this will deplete the CPA Open Space Reserve Fund each year until the debt is paid, within the next ten years.
A variety of smaller projects have also been funded by CPA revenues. Table 2 lists the expenditures Town Meeting has authorized. However not all authorized expeditures have actually been spent. In the case of the CPC expenses, for instance, $15,000 was authorized in 2004 and re-authorized in 2005, but Town Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Barton said that the CPC has only needed to spend about $48.
Allowable uses of CPA funds are described in detail on the web site: communitypreservation.org. In particular, it explains that the types of public recreation projects that can be supported with CPA funds include acquisition of athletic fields and playgrounds, community gardens and trail construction. CPA funds can be used for installing field irrigation or drainage systems and for resurfacing municipal tennis courts, but are not to be used for more routine maintenance or building facilities such as gymnasiums. The web site is maintained by the Community Preservation Coalition, a group of Massachusets organizations including: The Mass. Affordable Housing Alliance, The Mass. Audubon Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The future of matching funds
DOR's CPA matching grants are funded by fees collected from the Registry of Deeds and Land Court. The money is distributed each October, and is divided among the 100 towns that have voted to adopt the CPA. Currently the state is matching 100% of all CPA revenue raised locally during the previous year, but eventually, as more of the state's 351 communities adopt the CPA, the matching formula may need to be reduced. When this occurs, those towns that adopted the maximum 3% surcharge will have priority and receive a greater share of the state's matching funds. Katherine Roth, Assistant Director of the Community Preservation Coalition, predicts that given the current rate of CPA adoption, the state will be able to maintain the 100% matching level at least through FY2009.
Over the past five years there have been failed attempts to redirect the state's CPA funds for other uses. Roth believes the program will survive and said, "The more communities opt on to it, the more political power the program has."
© 2005 The