The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 14, 2010

Town Meeting supports CPA, rejects Article 20

Fresh from voting unanimously to authorize Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for iconic Carlisle projects under Article 21, such as repair of the Cranberry Bog House and improvements to trails (see story), citizens were asked to discuss whether they wanted to vote next year whether to reduce or rescind the 2% CPA surtax. After a lengthy debate, this non-binding CPA question failed on a voice vote.

The vote signaled that the Town Meeting majority supports Carlisle’s continued participation in the CPA program and the 2% surtax. Voters will face the question again on the ballot at Town Election on Tuesday, May 18.

Selectmen split 4-1

Chair of the Board of Selectmen Tim Hult briefly reviewed the fiscal situation the town is facing, having committed to expensive school building projects: a $20 million renovation of the Carlisle Public School and a potentially far more expensive building project for Concord-Carlisle High School.

Selectman Doug Stevenson spoke for the majority of the Board who supported the Article. “The most common concern we hear about Carlisle is the increasing taxes,” he said. “While we have accomplished a number of good projects with CPA funds, by eliminating the CPA we will alleviate some of the pressures due to school building costs.” He pointed out that CPA matching funds from the state are decreasing.

Hult, the single dissenting vote on the Board of Selectmen, spoke against the Article. “I recognize that we have a finite amount to spend on taxes, but I fully support the CPA program. The program is good for the town. We have few resources for stewardship [of town lands and buildings] and the CPA is an excellent vehicle to provide funds for support.” He cited the library renovation and the Benfield affordable housing program as examples of where the CPA has been an important asset.

Support for CPA

Following the presentation, supporters and dissenters debated the Article for more than an hour. Speaking for the Historical Commission, Chair Marc Lamere opposed the Article, pointing to a number of small projects that have benefitted the town, such as the clean-up of Lady Liberty statue in the center of the rotary. “Because of the availability of CPA funds, individuals and groups have undertaken restoration and preservation projects,” he said, for example, the large group of volunteers that have used small CPA funds to improve Carlisle trails.

Other supporters of CPA (opposed to the Article) included the Carlisle Housing Authority, the Carlisle Conservation Foundation, and the Trails Committee. Representatives pointed out that CPA funds have been used to preserve the “historical character” of the town and funded small projects “that make Carlisle, Carlisle.”

Ken Harte of Estabrook Road rose to propose an amendment to the Article. In 2009, said Harte, towns with a CPA surcharge of less than 3%, received a 38% match from the state. However, towns with a 3% surcharge got up to 100% in matching funds. Eight towns received 100%. He then moved to amend the Article to read “increase [the CPA surtax] to 3%.” After consultation with Town Counsel, the Moderator rejected the amendment as “not within the scope of the Article,” as it proposed the exact opposite of the the intent of the Article.

Opposed to CPA

Ralph Anderson of Baldwin Road argued that CPA is not necessary. “If projects are worthwhile, they can be funded through the normal Warrant process.” Other speakers including Kerry Kissinger of Elizabeth Ridge Road and Ray Kubacki of South Street echoed his comments.

David Freedman of the Planning Board disagreed with placing this Article before this Town Meeting. By this action, he said, “the Selectmen suggest that CPA is expendable and in competition with the school projects.” Stevenson countered that the Board is taking no position on CPA reduction or elimination, but that it is an option that should be placed before the town.

Article defeated

Voters may have been swayed by arguments against the Article, or still under the spell of photos of the cranberry harvest and boardwalks on trails, projected on the large screen as part of an earlier presentation. The majority voted against Article 20.

Regardless of the outcome at Town Meeting and at next week’s Town Election, the vote on this issue is non-binding. ∆

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