How Martha’s Vineyard spent $12.4 million preservation act dollars

Community Preservation Act (CPA) appropriations by town on the left, CPA fund sources on the right. The figures are from the Secretary of State's office and from figures compiled by Tony Nevin, with help from David Vigneault.

Between 2000, when the Community Preservation Act (CPA) became law, and FY2010, the six Martha’s Vineyard towns have collectively spent $12.4 million CPA dollars on affordable housing, open space-recreation, and historic preservation.

All six towns have adopted the CPA program. The state has contributed $6.4 million in matching funds to the Island towns, according to figures from the Secretary of State’s office. And, the towns have raised $7.5 million from a three percent real estate tax levy. Of the $13.9 million in CPA funds that flowed to the towns between 2000 and 2010, $1.5 million was not appropriated.

In the table accompanying this report, the left side shows what each town has spent in each of the three categories. The right side shows the amount of money generated by the towns through the tax surcharge, the contributions from the state and the percentage of the total funding that came from the state. The table contains figures from the Secretary of State’s office and figures compiled by Tony Nevin, West Tisbury community preservation committee administrative assistant, with help from David Vigneault, director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.

The CPA was designed to help towns address needs in affordable housing, open space acquisition, and historic preservation. The act allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund and to raise money through a surcharge of up to three percent of the real estate tax bill, excluding the first $100,000 of valuation. The act also creates a significant but variable state matching fund, which serves as an incentive to communities to pass the CPA. The matching funds come from a county deeds tax paid on real estate transfers wherever they occur in the state.

A town vote is required to enroll in the CPA program, and enrollment must be renewed at five-year intervals. When the program began, the state matched locally generated funds by 100 percent. But the state has since struggled to maintain that level because of declining real estate sales and the addition of more towns to the program. The matching rate for most towns has gradually declined.

At least 10 percent of each town’s CPA appropriations must go to each of the three categories. Once at least 10 percent has been voted for open space, money may also be spent on recreation facilities.