Franklin to Vote on CPA a 2nd Time on Nov. 3
Sep 28, 2020 03:09PM
By Judy O'Gara
National politics aside, November brings a very local measure up for vote in Franklin, a vote on passing the Community Preservation Act. According to the Community Preservation Coalition, (www.communitypreservation.org), the Community Preservation Act. 177 communities, about half of all Massachusetts municipalities, have adopted the Community Preservation Act, including towns surrounding Franklin such as Norfolk, Medway, Millis, Wrentham, Norwood and Holliston. Collectively, these funds protected over 30,000 acres of open space in Massachusetts. The Community Preservation Act was passed in 2000 to help communities empower themselves to raise a dedicated revenue source for the purposes of open space preservation, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation.
“Financially, it’s a very good deal for the towns,” says Franklin resident and volunteer Susan Speer, who personally supports the measure. “It gives a town funds to do something.” Speers has worked with 15 other communities, “many of which have adopted CPA either in the very beginning, like Mendon, or recently, like Wrentham and Northbridge. I’ve seen townsall around the area use CPA to protect the things and places they care about, not some outside organization that’s going to tell you what to do with that money.”
Open space is one of four areas in which CPA funds can be used. The three other categories are housing, historic, and recreation, and the local municipality decides by vote when and if funds set aside under the CPA will be used for projects.
“This would give us a savings account. It gives the town funds to do the things that the residents want to see done, it’s local control,” says Speers. “I think it’s smart to think about it now, how we are going to protect places in the future.”
Alan Earls, a Franklin resident who’s been advocating for open space preservation in Franklin, including the Charles River Meadowlands, notes, “CPA is an opportunity to address some of these special areas of focus in Franklin as well as recreation facilities, historic preservation, and affordable housing that have often been under funded in town budgets. With an override vote to raise taxes for our basic services on the near horizon, that only increases the appeal of CPA for those concerned about these secondary needs. I am glad that the Nov. 3 ballot will finally give the citizens of Franklin an opportunity to be heard regarding their support for these important ‘quality of life’, priorities.”
If passed, this “savings account” for the town of Franklin would be funded from two sources, a local property tax surcharge and a yearly distribution from the statewide CPA Trust Fund. Locally, funds would be raised through a surcharge of the tax levy against real property, which municipalities must adopt CPA by ballot referendum. In many of the cities and towns that have adopted CPA, exemptions are available for lower income residents or up to a certain amount of real estate tax. Based on 2020 numbers in Franklin, revenue from CPA funds would amount to $1,559,839 levied at 2% , which would mean, for a median home value of $460,400, with an exemption of the first $100,000, $104.58 a year in CPA surcharge.
The town would also receive revenue from a CPA Trust Fund, derived from a percentage of a surcharge placed on all real estate transactions at the state’s Registries of Deeds. In 2019, Franklin real estate transactions, according to the Register of Deeds, accounted for $126,300 for calendar year 2019. Franklin residents already pay these fees, but do not get any of it back. The state also has provided additional funds to this Trust Fund when real estate transactions have declined. The state match fluctuates every year based off the actual numbers of revenue generated at the local level and based on revenues appropriated by the Legislature into the CPA Match Fund at the state.
To take a neighboring town of Medway for example, where low-income homeowners are exempt, as is the first $100,000 of a real estate transaction, CPA funds in that town amounted to $1,058,092 in 2019, with $862,143 coming from the local surcharge and $195,949 coming from the CPA Trust Fund distribution. Over the years, Medway has raised $15,761,430 through CPA funding, which has gone to various projects, each voted for by residents in town.
“There are great advantages for any town who participate in the CPA program,” says Mary Olssen, Franklin resident, who is involved in the Franklin Historical Museum but spoke to Local Town Pages from her personal view. “Franklin would benefit by receiving funding for open spaces, preserving historic resources, and assisting with recreation areas and public housing. Personally, I would like to see the initiative pass.”
Wayne Simarrian, chair of the Franklin Recreation Advisory Board had voted unanimously to support a yes vote on CPA in mid-September. Personally, Simarrian noted, “I am in favor of CPA. The CPA will benefit The Recreation Programs of the Town of Franklin.”
This will not be the first time the CPA has been on the ballot in Franklin. In 2007, the measure failed, with a vote of 56.5% no and 39.7% yes. (3.7% were blank.)
According to a presentation made before the Franklin Town Council on January 30th about CPA, the current measure on the ballot would, like Medway, exempt the first $100,000 in real property value and low income. If passed, 10% of funds must be allocated for open space, 10% for historic preservation, and 10% for affordable housing, with the remaining funds discretionary. Those funds do not have to spent each year and may be set aside for future use.
If the town decides to pass the CPA measure, it must establish Community Preservation Committee comprised of at least five to recommend expenditures to the Town Council for final approval. The committee must include a representative from the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, the Housing Authority, the Historical Commission and the Recreation Board, and it may also have up to four additional at-large members.