Deerfield eyes trimming CPA tax rate, approves $261,000 worth of projects

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Residents have asked town officials to explore a reduction in the Community Preservation Act property tax surcharge.

At the annual town meeting this week, Kenneth Cuddeback, chairman of the Deerfield School Committee, asked the town to instruct the selectmen, Finance Committee and Community Preservation Committee to consider a possible reduction in the amount townspeople pay into the special tax. A majority of townspeople supported the motion.

Cuddeback’s request was one of many motions made by residents to explore ways to save money and reduce tax burdens on the town at the meeting.

“This has been a difficult budget year,” Cuddeback said. “We are facing a difficult time in years ahead. This is one area where we can provide some relief.”

The town pays a 3 percent surcharge for CPA funds. In turn, it receives a 100 percent match from the state. The town receives $214,000 in CPA funds from the taxpayers and the state.

The money can only support projects related to housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.

“There are few, if any revenue sources I know of where a state match exists,” CPC Chairman Daniel Graves said. “As budgets tighten, these funds are a nice way to continue to provide the kinds of quality services that attract taxpayers to Deerfield that might otherwise be cut or deferred in tight budget times.”

According to Graves, the state has three rounds of matching funds. Only those communities that adopt CPA with the full 3 percent surcharge are eligible to participate in two additional annual CPA distribution rounds each year, Graves said.

“While no guarantee, so far, because of rounds two and three, our town has received a dollar for dollar annual match for CPA funds raised locally. A reduction would allow us to participate in round one where some towns have received as little as a 34 percent match to funds collected,” Graves said.

Debate on the issue was divided.

CPC member Bruce St. Peters supported reducing the surcharge.

Jeff Upton of South Deerfield also pushed to reduce the tax.

“If we’re not willing to cut, how will we expect our taxes to go down? Are people willing to look at a 13.5 percent tax (increase) year after year?” Upton asked.

Meanwhile, Selectman Carolyn Ness said the town is saving funds for future housing projects. Planning Board Chairman John Waite said his board just finished a housing production plan.

“We are counting on CPA funds in the future,” Waite said.

Jane Trigere of the Deerfield Historic Commission, who worked on the rehabilitation of town cemeteries, said the town still needs to do the Old Albany Road cemetery.

“We need the money for those. We’re not finished and the big ones are coming up,” Trigere said. “We’re getting 100 percent from the state. Let’s get some of these big projects finished.”

The town approved seven projects this year totaling $261,000.

It would leave about $1.2 million for future projects, Graves said.

Approved projects include:

∎ $22,500 to address grading and drainage problems at Memorial Hall Museum.

∎ $160,000 to replace the playground at the Deerfield Elementary School

∎ $1,100 for the preservation of historic account books of old merchants and farmers held by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.

∎ $15,345 for the town’s share of the Frontier Regional School tennis court repair project.

∎ $25,500 to restore the facade of the Tilton Library.

∎ $38,340 for the Deerfield Historic Commission’s South Deerfield Historical Resources Inventory project. The vote was contingent on approval by the state Department of Revenue.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter follow: @RecorderKatMcK

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