April the people of Stoneham are going to be asked to accept the
Community Preservation Act (CPA) which is being sold as a State/ Town effort to
provide funds for conservation, historical preservation, recreation and
affordable housing. The proponents of this are spinning this as a good thing for Stoneham; they are ignoring or downplaying the following three reasons why it is bad for Stoneham
- Call it a Surcharge, but it is nothing more than a Tax Override.
If the CPA passes, the average single family’s tax bill will increase 40% more than the normal 2 ½ %. Renters can expect to see this surcharge passed on to them throughincreased rents.
The $100K exemption to class three and four businesses is insignificant and will not lesson the hardship caused by this override since their tax rate is higher. For example, the Redstone Shopping center is assessed $36,280,600 and their FY 2013 tax bill is $761,892. Even with the exemption the passage of this would increase their taxes by over $5,700. These increased costs will be passed on to you in the cost of goods and services.
Since Stoneham has repeatedly voted No on proposition 2 1/2 overrides, the proponents of this ballot question are trying to circumvent proposition 2 1/2 to raise your taxes. I think the taxpayers of Stoneham are smarter than
that. If its calculated on the value of your house and added to your tax bill it is an Override.
2. It establishes another nine (9) member non-elected bureaucracy
- Accepting the “Community Preservation” override you are establishing an independent nine member Community Preservation Committee (CPC)
that is not answerable to any other elected or appointed Committee. They will decide what the priorities of the town are with respect to acquisition, creation and preservation of open space;for the acquisition, preservation and rehabilitation of historic resources; for the preservation and creation of affordable housing. These priorities will be set without anyregard to the long term financial goals and plans developed by your elected officials. The only limitation of this Committee’s power is State law.Today the Board of Selectmen is the only Board that can make budgetary recommendations to Town Meeting. The Finance Board or individual citizens can propose amendments to the recommendations.
- What is more disturbing is that under the ballot question
this Committee can recommend “additional municipal funds” be added to the CPA account. This means that the CPC can recommend to Town Meeting that funds from the stabilization accounts or any other revenue be diverted to one of their chosen projects. This is unprecedented power over what can be recommended to Town Meeting. The proponents will respond by saying the final decision is the Town Meetings. That is correct, but we all know how Town meetings tend to get stacked by special interests.
- If this nine member committee decides to recommend the building of a hundred unit affordable housing building, all they have to do is present it to town meeting along with additional revenue from the stabilization account. They then stack the town meeting with all the people with special interests in the project, and it is a done deal.
- The impact to the Town finances of raiding stabilization can
be devastating to Town Services. The purpose of stabilization reserves is to provide the ability for the Town to stabilize the tax rate when a material change to Town revenues occurs, and to provide emergency funding for non-operating unforeseen expenses. The ability of the CPA to divert funding out of the stabilization and to a particular preservation project may sound appealing in the short run, but will have a tremendous negative impact to the long term financial stability of the Town.
3. You can’t depend upon the State to maintain promised State Aid
The argument put forth the most by the proponents is that this is free State
money and they will reimburse the town 40%. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you. The fact is that from FY 2002 to FY 2008 the communities received a 100% match of funds. In FY 2009 the dollar matchdropped to 67%, In FY 2010 it dropped again to 34% and in FY 2011 it dropped to 27%.Just look at the State’s history with State aid. When they give you aid in one area, they reduce it in others. Stoneham’s total State aid has decreased drastically over the last few years. My guess is that whatever you get from the CPA will be reduced in other areas. The difference is that the State will be able to dictate how you spend it. For example, the State while allowing the preparation and restoration work for an artificial surface at the High School to be funded from the Community Preservation Fund, they will not allow the cost of the actual artificial turf to be funded by that Fund. The artificial turf will cost about $1.2 million and it would have to be
funded out of the other town budgets.
My mother told me that you could tell about a person by the friends he or she keeps. Likewise, you can tell what the real intention of the CPA by those who are behind it. The CPA was initiated and being pushed by the same individuals who push and supported, two overrides, an unbalanced budget, the implementation of a trash fee, double digit salary increases for the school employees while the other town employee’s wages were
frozen, increased user fees at the schools and the increase in the meals
tax. The CPA is just another way they want to squeeze your wallet to get funds to feed their appetite for bigger and more intrusive government. Give yourself a tax break, vote no on the CPA