Greenfield: Vote YES on Question 3

  • Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 10/14/2020 8:48:10 AM

‘What’s Question 3?” Good question, given that on the ballot Greenfield voters will be filing between Oct. 17 and Nov. 3 it appears on Page 2, at the bottom, with no hint of what it’s about beyond four paragraphs of text nobody’s going to want to read.

What it’s about is whether Greenfield will join a popular Massachusetts-only program called the Community Preservation Act. Voting to put the CPA on the 2020 ballot was one of my first official acts as a Greenfield city councilor last January, and now, nine months later, there it is on Page 2, below the fold.

The idea behind the CPA is to provide state support for local communities that want to start projects that tend to fall outside the usual funding mechanisms that pay for schools, roads, public safety and trash removal. Worthy projects, like preserving ponds, trails, farms and open spaces. Like building playgrounds and soccer fields. Like restoring historic buildings and monuments. Like meeting local housing shortages by constructing affordable housing.

Since it was enacted into law in 2002, 177 Massachusetts cities and towns (more than half) have signed on, including our neighbors in Conway, Northfield, Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Hatfield, Hadley, Amherst and Northampton. To date, more than $2.35 billion has been raised and more than 12,000 CPA projects approved. According to the Community Preservation Council:

■ More than 6,800 affordable housing units have been created (with funding for 10,700 more).

■ More than 30,000 acres of open space have been preserved.

■ More than 5,500 appropriations have been made for historic preservation projects.

■ More than 2,500 outdoor recreation projects have been initiated.

“Where did all this money come from?” Another good question. There are two sources:

The state money, which varies from year to year, comes from a trust fund that collects a one-time surcharge on every real estate transaction in the commonwealth: $50 for most documents filed at the registries and $25 for municipal lien certificates. Greenfield won’t benefit from the fund unless we adopt CPA.

Secondly, Greenfield’s contribution would be raised, starting in fiscal 2022, through a 1% annual surcharge on property taxes — with three exceptions designed to spare those who can least afford to pay:

 <sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Properties owned and occupied by any person who qualifies for low-income housing or low-or-moderate-income senior housing are exempt.

 <sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Properties assessed at less than $100,000 are exempt.

 <sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> The first $100,000 assessed value of any property is exempt.

Example: If you pay $3,000 in property taxes, your preservation act surcharge would be about $20 per year.

Any projects in Greenfield would be championed by a local Community Preservation Committee selected by the mayor and City Council. The committee would be required by law to hold public meetings and seek community buy-in before any money is spent.

I realize this is a hard time to be asking anyone to pay more for anything, but to me this seems like a smart, fair way to fund quality-of-life improvements that wouldn’t otherwise have a chance.

That’s why I’m circling YES on Question 3. I hope you will too.

Phil Elmer is a Greenfield city councilor at large.


Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
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