By: Charlie Peters
EAST BRIDGEWATER – The talk around on Election Day will likely be the results of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton.
But the action around East Bridgewater in the months and years to follow will likely be more affected by the results of a local ballot initiative regarding the establishment of a Community Preservation Act, which residents can vote on at the polls on Nov. 8.
The Community Preservation Act is a combined local and state fund for town’s to use in protecting open space, historic preservation and providing affordable housing.
The money is raised by a tax levy on local property, and then a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund — created by the state’s Department of Revenue — then matches a percentage of that local fund by distributing money to each town.
In East Bridgewater, a yes vote would create a surcharge of 1.5 percent of the annual real estate tax levy against property beginning in 2018.
Exemptions will be available for low-income homeowners and a low- to moderate-income senior homeowners.
If passed, a Community Preservation Committee would be established to study local resources and make annual recommendations on how to spend a minimum of 10 percent of the funds each fiscal year on either open space, historic resources or affordable housing.
Local supporters of the CPA noted that neighboring towns such as Bridgewater and West Bridgewater have used the funds to partially finance pricey projects — not unlike a recent $400,000 renovation to East Bridgewater’s town hall.
“Adopting the CPA would allow East Bridgewater to join nearly all our neighboring towns in creating a dedicated source of revenue to preserve our community’s character and benefit from the state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund,” Beth Hayes, a member of the East Bridgewater CPA Ballot Question Committee, wrote in a Boston Globe column.
Hayes also noted that East Bridgewater voters would have full control over the funds and projects.
But critics in town warn that the CPA will function as another ask for public funds after debt exclusions and overrides have been passed for the Junior/Senior High School and the Community Center, respectively.
William Dowling, the chairman of the board of selectmen, noted that the town has handled costly projects through the capital needs fund in the past and that the state’s matching funds percentage has fallen from 100 to under 30.
‘Our current and recent projects have all added significantly to the taxes our residents pay, particularly in a town where the tax base is 89 percent residential,” Dowling wrote in the Globe, adding that the town is currently in the top-20 in the state for property tax rates. “I honestly believe that the tax burden in East Bridgewater is too high and that it is unfair to ask resident to shoulder the burden of yet another tax increase by adopting the CPA.”
According to the state, 46 percent of Massachusetts’ cities and towns have adopted the CPA.