The Community Preservation Act (CPA) has had a resurgence in recent years with the City of Boston and the City of Chelsea joining in the ranks of communities that have approved the program, but Everett has never bit at the apple of free state matching money, and Councilor Gerly Adrien is now proposing the City place the measure on the 2021 City Election ballot.
The CPA is a state program that involves a surcharge to property tax bills in a community in order to raise a sum of money that is matched by the state. The proceeds those dual pots of money are to be used to fund affordable housing, open space/parks, and historic preservation – all pressing needs in Everett.
The cost is fairly minimal for most taxpayers, with 3 percent surcharged on the actual dollar value of the tax bill (not the valuation of the home). So, a $4,000 tax bill would equal $10 a month and $120 a year.
Councilor Adrien introduced the matter at Monday night’s City Council meeting – which was the first meeting to be held back in the Council Chambers since March.
“I was looking at how to figure out how to build more affordable housing in the city, and so I’ve been studying the CPA,” she said. “More than 50 percent of all cities and towns in Massachusetts have already passed this. I’m hoping we could take a look at this over the next three to six months and work on it so it would be on the ballot in November 2021.”
The measure would have to be passed by the Council with a unique local ballot question, and then the voters would have to give the up or down on the program. If implemented, a CPA Committee would be formed to generate rules for the local program and to make yearly awards. The money is outside of the City Budget and meant to be outside of the influence of City Hall and policymakers – a grass-roots funding source – though final approval on all awards has to be given by the City Council.
Already, Adrien and Sen. Sal DiDomenico have agreed to work on it, with DiDomenico being a big champion of the program at the state level. He said Chelsea has already implemented CPA a few years ago and is having great success to help with housing and historic preservation. He’s hoping Everett will do the same.
“The CPA is something I’ve worked on in the State Senate for a long time,” he said. “I feel this is a great way for our city to provide resources for our open spaces and for affordable housing, which we all know is a critical need in our community. Many cities and towns such as our neighbor Chelsea have adopted this with much success and are now receiving state matching funds from the Commonwealth. If we do not implement this, we are leaving free state money on the table.”
The reaction from some on the Council was mixed, with Councilor Fred Capone saying he would not support it. He said he would rather take care of funding affordable housing within the City Budget.
“I appreciate the thought, and I think these things are important, but the last thing I want to do is raise anyone’s taxes,” said Capone. “I would like to see if we can accomplish these programs with the existing tax budget. I’d like to see these items accomplished in the budget.”
Council President Rosa DiFlorio said even though it’s a small amount of money, seniors on a fixed income might struggle to come up with the extra money.
“This is a benefit to everyone and I don’t want to see anyone’s taxes go up,” said Adrien. “I’m against that 100 percent, but I want to work with the mayor to see if we can make it work here.”
The CPA can be customized to exempt senior citizens and owner-occupants from the surcharge – particularly in communities like Everett and Chelsea with large industrial/commercial tax bases.
•There is somewhat of a controversy brewing over appointments by Mayor Carlo DeMaria to various Boards in the City, particularly the Zoning Board. Recently, the mayor asked long-time member Mike Danton to step down and has replaced him with Le Cao. Cao was up for appointment on Monday, and the matter was sent to Committee for further review.