Voters pass CPA in 11 municipalities, adding strain on state match

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Voters in 11 communities, including the city of Boston, approved Community Preservation Act proposals on Nov. 8, while voters defeated CPA proposals in five communities.
 
CPA questions passed in Billerica, Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Hull, Norwood, Pittsfield, Rockland, Springfield, Watertown and Wrentham – the largest number of municipalities to adopt the CPA on a single election date. Measures were defeated in Amesbury, Danvers, East Bridgewater, Palmer and South Hadley.
 
Nearly half of the cities and towns in Massachusetts (172) have adopted the program.
 
The Community Preservation Act, passed in 2000, allows participating municipalities to place a surcharge of up to 3 percent on real property in order to create a local dedicated fund for the four allowable CPA purposes: open space preservation, historic preservation, outdoor recreation and affordable housing. Communities that have adopted the CPA receive annual distributions from the state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund.
 
The adoption of the CPA by additional municipalities will put additional strain on the matching funds provided by the state. On Nov. 16, the Department of Revenue announced that the state match rate for Round 1 this year will be 20.6 percent, the lowest in the program’s history.
 
From 2002 to 2007, the state matched 100 percent of the local revenue raised through CPA surcharges. The state match has dropped since then, hitting 26.6 percent in 2011. A state law change in 2012 added additional revenue to the CPA Trust Fund, raising the match to 52.2 percent, but increased adoption in recent years has meant that the fund is divided among more communities, reducing the match percentage.
 
In recent years, the state has managed to supplement the amount contributed to the CPA Trust Fund, which is funded by fees collected by the registries of deeds. Last year, for example, $10 million was added from the state budget surplus at the end of fiscal 2015. The fiscal 2017 budget included a provision that would have directed up to $10 million to the CPA Trust Fund from any budget surplus available at the close of fiscal 2016, but there was no surplus available so nothing was added to the fund.
 
The cities and towns that adopted the CPA on Nov. 8 won’t begin collecting a state match until 2018.
 
For more information on the CPA, visit www.communitypreservation.org.