Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Boston to vote on Community Preservation Act

Besides voting for president, members of congress, members of the state legislature, and some other state and county offices, Massachusetts residents will answer four statewide referendum questions on the November 8, 2016 ballot.

Question 1 will allow the Gaming Commission to issue another slots license;

Question 2 will authorize the creation of up to 12 new charter schools each year;

Question 3 will prohibit “certain methods of farm animal containment;” and

Question 4 will legalize recreational marijuana use.

Voters in Boston will have a fifth question: whether the city should adopt the Community Preservation Act. The CPA requires voters to assent to a property tax surcharge to be used for affordable housing, open space protection, and historic preservation. The amount raised would be increased with money from a state matching fund that consists of money raised through a surcharge on documents recorded at the registry of deeds. The Boston proposal would raise $16mil from property taxes. That amount would be increased by $4mil from the CPA fund for a total of $20mil.

Mayor Walsh and other leaders in Boston have endorsed the proposal. The Boston Globe did that today in an editorial.

The Community Preservation Act was born in 2003. More than 150 communities in Massachusetts have taken advantage of it. Some like Lowell have never even tried, presumably because few leaders are willing to ask people to voluntarily raise their taxes. Still, people who live in communities that don’t use the CPA are subsidizing everyone who does, because everyone contributes to the fund. Since 2008, the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds has collected nearly $10mil in CPA surcharges which are $20 per document in most cases. Perhaps if Boston voters endorse Question 5, other communities in Massachusetts will be inspired to do give the CPA a shot.

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