CPA state matching funds to drop
The incentive for towns to join the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA) is that the state matches funds derived from a three-percent surtax on the property taxes collected by the towns. Until this year, the state has matched town funds 100 percent, but that level of match was never guaranteed. Bob Bliss, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue, told The Times this week that the match will probably drop to 65 percent this year. The final figure will be announced in October. Mr. Bliss explained that the number of towns adopting the CPA has increased, and the slow housing market has reduced the income from the Registry of Deeds, which is where the state matching funds come from.
The CPA is designed to help towns in three areas: affordable housing, open space, and historic preservation. 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.
In the years since 2000, when the legislature enacted the CPA, all six towns on Martha's Vineyard have adopted the program, most recently West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury in 2007. Collectively, voters have so far spent $7.5 million dollars on affordable housing, open space, recreation, and historic preservation, half of that money coming from the state. See the table on this page.
The three percent surtax excludes the first $100,000 of valuation. In West Tisbury, the surcharge on a property valued at $500,000 this year will cost the owner an additional $49.20; on a $1 million assessment, $110.70; on a $2 million assessment, $233.70. Tax rates vary from town to town. On the same valuations, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury owners will pay more; Edgartown and Chilmark, less.
On the Island, much of the urging to adopt the CPA came from affordable housing advocates, and Island-wide about half of CPA funds have so far gone for housing. West Tisbury and Chilmark have spent more than three quarters of their CPA funds on affordable housing. Oak Bluffs and Tisbury have spend slightly more than half in that area, while Aquinnah and Edgartown have spent more on historic preservation.
Sample CPA projects
The chart elsewhere on this page shows the total of CPA funds spent on Martha's Vineyard, taken from a list of all CPA projects compiled by Tony Nevin, Tisbury resident and West Tisbury CPA committee administrative assistant. A few examples from Mr. Nevin's list:
The largest single expenditure in Aquinnah was $35,000 for the purchase and development of affordable homesites in 2002, but Aquinnah has spend the bulk of its CPA funds for open space and historic preservation. Aquinnah has spent funds for open space or recreation at the town hall, the library, the skate park, the Pow-wow grounds and along Moshup trail. Aquinnah's historic preservation funds have been spent at the Vanderhoop Homestead, the town hall, the lighthouse, and the cliff walkway.
The Middle Line housing project has commanded almost $1 million of Chilmark's housing CPA funds as well as another $250,000 of open-space funds. Chilmark historic preservation funds have been spent to restore stone walls and preserve town records and historic artifacts.
More than half of Edgartown's CPA funds have gone for historic preservation of the Edgartown Lighthouse, the Federated Church, and an historically appropriate hangar at the airfield. Housing CPA funds have gone to the Jenney Way project, a Habitat for Humanity project, and Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA) projects. Edgartown also spent $300,000 of its CPA funds on a lot between the cemetery and the fire station (one quarter of the purchase price), which will remain as open space.
Oak Bluffs has spent about half of its CPA funds on housing, including projects in Bradley Square and converting the old library for affordable housing, as well as contributions to the Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF) and the DCRHA rental conversion program. Oak Bluffs has also spent CPA money for historic preservation of the East Chop Lighthouse, Bradley Church, and the Ocean Park bandstand. For open space and recreation, Oak Bluffs used CPA funds for Farm Pond, Hartford Park, Veira Park, and the Sea View beach.
Tisbury divided its affordable housing funds between DCRHA projects and the IAHF. Historic restoration in Tisbury included the Tashmoo Springs building and the town hall. Open space and recreation funds went for Tashmoo Park and Veterans Memorial Park.
For the next five years, West Tisbury has committed $100,000 per year of its CPA historic preservation funds for the restoration of the town hall. Affordable housing funds have been spent on DCRHA and IAHF projects at Sepiessa and elsewhere.
The money will continue to roll in, though not so generously matched by the state. Once a town votes to join the CPA, it is committed for five years. Even after five years, the town must vote itself out of the CPA at a town meeting. So as the money machine grinds on, the towns must decide how to spend it.
Each town has a CPA committee that screens applications for funds, but every project must be approved by the voters at town meeting. Mr. Nevin told The Times that the West Tisbury CPA committee anticipated a drop in matching funds and budgeted for a 75 percent match. The West Tisbury committee is actively seeking more applications, and he encourages residents of all towns to contact their CPA committees for more information. Because the towns need time to place CPA recommendations on town meeting warrants, typically done in February for April town meetings, many CPA committees have application deadlines in the next two months. See the list of deadlines and contacts elsewhere on this page.
It is the responsibility of the CPA committees to help citizens and groups apply for these funds. Mr. Nevin told The Times, "The West Tisbury CPA would really like to hear as many creative ideas as possible from residents. The CPA is a great source of funds that come at very little cost to individual taxpayers." Next year West Tisbury will have almost $800,000 to appropriate, very little of which has yet been applied for.