Gov. permanently hikes funding to CPA program

  • Northfield’s Civil War memorial was funded through Community Preservation Act money. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • The new steps and landscaping at the Northfield Town Hall were funded through Community Preservation Act money. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • The Conway Swimming Pool was preserved through the Community Preservation Act program. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2019 12:07:26 AM
Modified: 8/2/2019 12:07:14 AM

GREENFIELD — The governor has signed a budget that includes a permanent increase in funding for the Community Preservation Act, so member towns will get more money to preserve open spaces, renovate historic buildings and parks, and build playgrounds and athletic fields for residents to enjoy.

This year’s budget includes an annual $36 million increase to the CPA Trust Fund, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who co-sponsored the request for the increase, said non-member cities and towns will have to adopt the CPA to become eligible to receive matches at the increased level.

The seven Franklin County towns that adopted the CPA are Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, Northfield, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately. Many of them have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects since they adopted the act.

“I heard someone from the state Community Preservation Coalition say ‘This saves the program,’” Mark said. “We got lucky this year because revenue is strong. This is great.”

Mark said this is one of the best budgets he has seen in a long time. Mark has been a state representative since 2011. He said his first budget many years ago was the worst the state had seen in the 40 years leading up to it in terms of cuts and bare bones, so he is thrilled with the current budget.

“To see how things have changed in the past eight or nine years is good, amazing,” he said. “And, this is a great opportunity for member towns to move their programs forward and invest in themselves with a good match from the state. It also shows we’ve made a serious commitment to funding the program. I hope other towns will now join. I think some have held off because of the state funding.

“This should result in a state match of 30 percent for local investments in the types of projects the CPA covers,” Mark said. “More than half of the municipalities in Massachusetts have adopted the CPA over the past 20 years, which has resulted in a much bigger pool of applicants that has spread the funding too thin. That’s why the funding diminished.”

The $36 million will come from a $30 increase to most recording fees at registries of deeds — from $20 to $50 — beginning in 2020. Municipal lien certificates will cost $25, instead of $10. The increase more than doubles the base percentage match for CPA communities beginning November 2020.

The fiscal 2020 budget also includes up to $20 million from the state’s budget surplus — if there is one this year — which would be transferred to the CPA in time for the fall distribution.

Under the CPA, communities in the program impose a surcharge on local property taxes — anywhere from one-half to 3 percent. Then the state matches the amount by a certain percentage, depending on where the town or city decides to cap its contribution. The state receives money from each town and that money goes into a pot and is redistributed according to what each town is raising itself.

According to the Community Preservation Coalition, Massachusetts started out matching 100 percent of the money raised in towns that adopted the maximum 3 percent, so if the town raised $1,000, it would get $1,000 from the state, but in the past few years that dwindled, and towns that voted lower than the maximum percent saw only between 11 and 12 percent from the state match. The state match was 17.2 percent in 2018.

Northfield, for instance, has spent about $388,787 in CPA money since 2009, repairing its Town Hall steps, constructing a Civil War memorial, replacing old playground equipment at the elementary school and more. Northfield is one of the two Franklin County towns Mark represents.

The town started out with a contribution of the maximum 3 percent, but a year later, voted to reduce that to a half percent, because of the state’s dwindling match and residents’ concerns about rising taxes. The town tried again last year to raise its contribution to 1 percent, but that was voted down. So far, the town has received about $140,000 in CPA funds from the state.

Former Gov. Paul Cellucci signed the CPA into law with the intent of the state matching 100 percent of what each municipality raised by its property tax surcharge. As more towns joined the CPA — about half the towns and cities in Massachusetts at this point — state funds began to dwindle and it began to depend on budget surplus money to help.

And so, Gov. Charlie Baker made good on his promise to make adjustments to the program’s formula to make sure it is funded properly. Baker has said, as he watched funding dwindle, that he would sign a bill that would eventually bring state funding at least back up to 50 percent.

State matching funds are distributed to all participating cities and towns in October. Voters approve projects at their Town Meetings in the spring.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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