The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 12, 2010

Selectmen to poll voters before proposing change to CPA

The Carlisle Board of Selectmen (BOS) decided to not put rescinding or reducing the 2% surcharge for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) before town voters this spring. Instead, the group opted to include the item as a non-binding item at Town Meeting to gauge townspeople’s feelings about whether they would like to see it on the ballot next year. The town added the CPA surcharge eight years ago. Permitted uses include open space preservation, historic preservation, community housing and public recreation. Although the state matched CPA funds dollar-for-dollar initially, the matching grant has dropped to 29% at present. The BOS decision was not unanimous, however, with Doug Stevenson opposed.

“If we think it’s a question that should be asked, put it on there [the town ballet],” said Stevenson. He argued that more people in town attended elections as opposed to Town Meetings and that the issue deserved a “broader” response.

BOS Chair Tim Hult justified bringing up the question at all by explaining that the town has “short-term economic problems” caused by the tax impact of major building projects at two schools, and called them “the largest two projects that the town has ever seen.” He estimated that the net cost for the Carlisle Public School building project, projected at $13 million, would increase the tax bill for the “average household” by “$500-600 for the next 20 years.” In three to six years or so, he estimated that the average household could see the same impact from the high school which would result in a total $1,000-1,300” tax increase.

“We are at a point where it makes sense to take a look at the CPA surcharge,” said Hult, which he put at about $250 per average household. He emphasized that he personally supports the CPA surcharge; however, he called bringing the matter up for consideration as a “measure of good governance.”

Community leaders speak up

The BOS meeting drew about 15 attendees more than usual due to the CPA agenda item which was awarded 20 minutes on the agenda. Hult opened up the floor for limited discussion.

“I think the CPA plays to the character of Carlisle,” said Jay Luby of Woodbine Road, president of CCI Communications (governing board of the “Mosquito”) and board member of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation. He called Carlisle a “special place” and noted that the $1.9 million that the town has received through CPA as enabling conservation, affordable housing, pathways and historical society projects.

“Any other investment outside schools would be nearly impossible,” noted Planning Board Chair David Freedman.

Stevenson responded, “We don’t live in a place where there are unlimited resources” and added that the town protected conservation land long before the CPA program. He thought it might be wise to cut back on some projects in the short term. He commented that implementation of the Benfield affordable housing project was actually delayed and encumbered by financial constraints pertaining to the administration of CPA funds.

Trails Committee member Marc Lamere called CPA a “good avenue to fund projects that have no other means to get funded.” He spoke for not eliminating CPA completely and believed that funding it at even a half a percent “can have an impact.”

The board voted 4-1 to open the discussion to townspeople at Town Meeting on May 9. Without a mechanism to vote on the item in a Town Election this year, however, Stevenson lightheartedly likened the action to asking “survey questions at Town Meeting.” ∆

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