Greenfield City Council to vote language of CPA ballot question

  • Greenfield City Hall. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2020 6:06:11 PM

GREENFIELD — Greenfield voters will not only cast their votes for a president in November, but they’ll decide whether the city will adopt the Community Preservation Act.

In February, City Council voted 7 to 5 to place the question on the Nov. 3 ballot. On Wednesday, City Council will vote on the final language of the question.

If approved, the city will establish a dedicated fund used to: acquire, create and preserve open space, including land for parks and recreational use; protect public drinking water sources, aquifers, wetlands, farmland, forests, marshes, scenic areas and wildlife preserves; restore historic buildings and sites; and create, preserve and restore affordable housing.

According to information provided by City Clerk Kathy Scott, Greenfield would fund the Community Preservation Act by imposing a surcharge of 1 percent on the annual property tax levy. Those who would be exempt from the surcharge include people who qualify for low-income housing or low- to moderate-income senior housing. A taxpayer receiving a regular property tax abatement or exemption would receive a pro-rata reduction in the surcharge.

After a city or town imposes a surcharge on local property taxes, the state then matches the amount by a certain percentage, depending on where the city or town decides to cap its contribution. The state receives money from each town — a $20 fee assessed on certain real estate transactions through the registries of deeds — and that money goes into a pot to be redistributed.

A Community Preservation Committee would be established in Greenfield to study community preservation resources, possibilities and needs. The committee would then make annual recommendations to City Council regarding how to spend the money.

The ballot question needs a majority vote to pass. State law requires adoption of the Community Preservation Act be decided by voters rather than by a government body.

City Council Vice President Otis Wheeler, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said committee members began discussing the issue last December. Former City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud submitted the Community Preservation Act for consideration in September 2019, and the matter was tabled at the Dec. 18, 2019 City Council meeting.

“Personally I am of the opinion that … the Community Preservation Act is a way to enact something close to a progressive tax that essentially puts money in the bank and allows you to spend from savings rather than continuing to borrow for most capital projects,” Wheeler said earlier this year.

At the time, Precinct 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher said she was concerned about putting the Community Preservation Act on the ballot, and voted against doing so. She said she thought after having asked taxpayers to fund a new library, it might be too much to ask for more.

Property owners could file for an exemption from paying the levy imposed by the Community Preservation Act.

Those who voted in favor of putting the question on the ballot included Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld, who said he thinks the Community Preservation Act is a “really good program,” and Precinct 5 Councilor Timothy Dolan.

“What we are asking people is whether they would like us to add an additional tax and I think that’s the best way to tax people,” Dolan said. “I think it’s a brilliantly written law in that it incentivizes the creation of things people value. I think it would be irresponsible not to give voters the opportunity to do this calculation for themselves and balance the things that they value, in terms of housing or open space, with the cost.”

Seven Franklin County towns have already adopted the Community Preservation Act: Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, Northfield, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately.

The City Council will meet virtually on Wednesday at 7 p.m., during which councilors are expected to vote on the final language of the ballot question. To join the meeting or to view the agenda, visit bit.ly/30kOvZp.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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