Community Preservation Act forum focused on regional funding

Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, provided a CPA pep talk over a PowerPoint presentation titled, “CPA: What makes it great?” — Photo by Tony Omer

More than 30 people gathered at the Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs on a wet fall evening Tuesday to learn about the regional funding possibilities associated with the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, a statewide group that helped establish the CPA and actively supports its implementation, provided a CPA pep talk over a PowerPoint presentation titled: “CPA: What makes it great?”

The CPA allows towns to add a surcharge fee as large as 3 percent on real estate transfers and receive matching funds from the state for a prescribed list of projects. CPA expenditures must be approved at town meetings. and can be used for open-space and historical preservation, development of affordable housing, and the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities.

Tuesday-night attendees included Community Preservation Act committee (CPC) members from Island towns as well as representatives of groups that have applied for CPA funds. Mr. Saginor said that 155 Massachusetts towns and cities have adopted the CPA to date.

Mr. Saginor said he did not need to highlight the CPA successes on the Island, and instead spoke about large successful projects in several off-Island towns. He said that combined local funds and state funds have generated more than $1.3 billion dollars for CPA projects statewide.

“On top of the money that has been directly raised by CPA, you folks have seen the magic of how CPA funds can be used to leverage all sorts of other funding,” Mr. Saginor said. “This happened here with the [Gay Head] lighthouse and a lot of the housing projects and virtually any project that hasn’t been funded 100 percent by CPA.”

He said that the state matching funds are the key to the program’s success. They come from a state trust funded by a $10 fee on lien transactions and a $20 fee on real estate transactions.

The match has dipped to as little as 26 percent of CPA money raised by the towns because of the addition of new towns to the program and the decrease in revenues with the real estate downturn. He said he is talking to legislators about ways to keep the matches consistently in the 40 to 50 percent range. For fiscal year 2013 the legislature added $25 million in funds from state budget surpluses to the matching-fund trust to help make up the shortfall.

State representative Tim Madden of Nantucket, a staunch supporter of the CPA, spoke about the benefits. “I look at the CPA as a local economic development tool.” he said. “Local builders are getting the work generated by CPA projects. I’m a fan of home rule and local control. There is nothing more democratic. We understood the value of taxing ourselves for our benefit.”

A panel of Islanders who have successfully negotiated the hurdles of applying for regional CPA funds spoke about the benefits of the CPA.

Adam Wilson, Aquinnah town manager, spoke about the value and necessity of regional CPA support for the continuing success of the lighthouse project. He said that the support of all six Island towns was an important factor in helping to generate additional private support to raise the money that is needed.

Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi described affordable housing projects that have been supported regionally. He said voters have often responded positively when they realize the value of supporting projects that may be outside their own town but may house people who work in their towns.

Questions from the audience centered on methods and procedures for applying for regional CPA funding in a community made up of six towns.

Dan Waters of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum said the present method of presenting requests for funding a project requires presentations at each town’s CPCs and attending the town meetings. He said the last museum request took him to more than 16 meetings.

Several suggestions were floated from the floor for handling regional requests, including a common application and a regional CPC with representatives from each town, similar to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council formed from individual town cultural councils in 2007. It was suggested that further meetings on the subject could be worthwhile.