Saturday, November 03, 2007

Frequently asked questions on CPA

Frequently Asked Questions

About the CPA in Franklin

Question 1 at Town Election November 6th

Q. What is the CPA and why should the public support this?

A. The Community Preservation Act is a state, local option law that allows communities to establish a local dedicated fund for open space preservation, historic preservation, and affordable community housing. Communities that adopt CPA can better manage growth, preserve community character, and strengthen and vitalize their community. They also become eligible for other state, federal, and private sources of funds. The state favors CPA communities in determining eligibility for grants in many of its programs.

Q. What are the long term goals of the CPA?

A. Smart growth, preservation of community character, and strengthening Massachusetts' communities.

Q. It is my understanding that Franklin will raise $1,000,000 a year if the CPA passes. What type of assurance will the public get that the funds will be used for said purposes?

A. By state law, the CPA funds can only be used for the three (four including active outdoor recreational lands and facilities) CPA purposes.

Q. I thought the Hotel Tax buys open space?

A. The annual set-aside of the hotel tax from our 3 hotels is voted each year at the discretion of the Town Council. This policy can be changed by the Council, and there has been discussion by Council members of this possibility in the next fiscal year. [Note that even if this step is taken, the monies already set aside will remain dedicated to open space purchases in the future.] Also, please recall that the hotel tax fund is not available for the other two community needs CPA would fund: historic preservation and housing that’s affordable. CPA should not be seen as “just” for any one of the three purposes, but it will Franklin take care of all three needs.

Q. Isn’t the money set aside for open space enough?

A. The money set aside for conservation could very quickly be used up if any one of several large (over 100 acre) properties are offered to the Town.

Q. Franklin is so big now! What’s left to protect?

A. The Land Use Committee is working on an update to the Franklin Open Space and Recreation Plan. The previous plan identifies priorities and opportunities for future conservation efforts. There are many hundreds of acres of farms and other open space which are not protected. These include over 500 acres at the Mount St. Mary’s Abbey on Upper Union Street and the Camp Hyastan property on Summer Street, next to our Town Forest.

Chapter 61 lands on which the town has the right of first refusal include: privately owned farms and forest land, two golf courses, and a private a day camp. Some Chapter 61 lands could potentially help protect current water supplies or provide future water supplies.

Q. Who decides how to spend the money raised through CPA?

A. A local Community Preservation Committee will be established by bylaw in Franklin after adoption of the CPA, to administer the program locally. Establishment of this local committee is a required part of participating in the CPA. Under the terms of CPA law, “the Community Preservation Committee shall consist of 5-9 members, and must include one representative each from the local conservation, parks, and historical commissions; planning board; and housing authority. If a municipality has not established one or more of these boards or commissions, a representative serving in a similar capacity can be appointed to the committee. The other members of the committee, if any, may be appointed or elected, as provided in the bylaw or ordinance adopted to establish the committee.”

Q. If passed, over 5 years CPA could net $5m just in the local raise. All this money will not go to the Library. How is the money portioned out?

A. Local residents determine how the funds will be spent each year. All CPA projects must be approved by Town Council. So if the library repairs are a priority, the funds will be channeled to that project by the town. At least 10% of the money raised must be given to each of the three major categories of eligible projects. The rest (70%) may be devoted to one of the three needs, if the community wishes. Also, no more than 5% of the CPA funds can be spent on ‘administrative’ costs.

This means 65% of the fund is “flexible” and can be added to the 10% minimum for a specific project. For instance, the Community Preservation Committee might decide to direct 10% plus 65% -- or 75% total – for the historic repairs.

Q. If the Library is the top priority for the Town, how much would be left for other types of CP projects?

A. At least 10% of the money raised must be given to each of the three major categories of eligible projects. If the CPA raises $1 million, plus the state grant, there would be at least $100,000 available for open space/recreation projects and $100,000 available for housing needs projects. The rest (70%) may be devoted to one of the three needs, if the community wishes.

Q. How long would CPA remain in effect?

A. There is a five year mandatory trial period with the CPA program, so at minimum, the CPA surcharge would last for five years from the date of adoption of the program. However, a community can choose to lower (or raise) its CPA surcharge, and or change the optional exemptions it has chosen at any time, including within this first five year period. After five years, a community may opt out of the program by the same mechanism it used to adopt it - legislative body vote followed by a ballot election. No community with CPA has yet chosen to opt out of the program after five years.

Q. How can I figure my actual CPA contribution if my home is worth more or less than the “$437,000 average” home in Franklin?

A. The average Franklin homeowner will owe $90 to the local CPA fund annually, based on FY07 DOR tax figures and the average residential property value of $437,000. Individual homeowners will owe more or less to the local CPA fund, based on the value of their property. First, deduct the $100,000 residential exemption from your assessed value. Then, re-calculate your tax owed on this reduced value. Then, once you have the reduced tax, calculate 3% of that for the CPA.

Q. I’ve heard there is no guarantee that the state will provide funding or a match.

A. This is incorrect. Every community that participates in CPA is guaranteed an annual state match of from 5% to 100% of what they have raised locally with their CPA surcharge. Each year so far, including this year (just last week), the state has been able to match what each CPA community has raised at a rate of 100%. This is most likely the last year that the state will have enough funds to match what each community raises locally at the 100% rate, but the Community Preservation Coalition has submitted legislation which, if passed, would guarantee a minimum of a 75% match for each participating CPA community each year.

Q. It is my understanding that in 2010, the Town of Franklin will have the ability to borrow more money in the form of Bonds for the Library repairs without placing a strain on the town budget.

A. Communities that adopt CPA can also bond against the locally raised portion of the funds.

Q. Is CPA a permanent “over-ride” on the allowed Prop 2 ½ tax levy?

A. CPA is not an override. CPA does not raise the town’s established levy. Prop 2 ½ is still in effect. CPA does not affect the tax rate of the community. It is a surcharge on individuals' property tax bills.

Please vote on Question 1, Tuesday, November 6
Polls Open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
at the Franklin High School Fieldhouse

Information obtained from Susan Spears.