By: Stephen Peterson
WRENTHAM - The town is going to have another shot at adopting the state Community Preservation Act that provides funds for preservation of open space and history, affordable housing and recreation through a property tax surcharge.
A group of residents has gathered enough signatures of registered voters to have a referendum question for the CPA on the Nov. 8 state election ballot.
The proposed 1 percent surcharge on property tax bills would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $45 a year. The first $100,000 in valuation would be exempt.
"It's a fairly low amount," said conservation commission Vice Chairman Barry Kassler, who also chairs the open space committee and along with conservation commission chairman Leo Immonen appeared before selectmen last week to announce the plans.
Both are acting as private citizens on the CPA push.
Kassler works part time as an advisor to a CPA committee in Stoughton.
"I saw all the wonderful things they're doing in their community, and I thought it would be really nice for Wrentham to do," Kassler said.
The state, through money collected for deeds recorded at county registries, matches 19 percent of what a community raises with the CPA. Wrentham residents paid about $50,000 for transactions last year.
"This way, we'll get most of that back," Kassler said.
Organizers for the CPA initiative gathered over 400 signatures of registered voters to get the question on the ballot. At least 5 percent of registered voters were required.
"It made more sense to get on the presidential election ballot, because more people vote and you get a broader cross-section of people," Kassler said.
Selectmen voted unanimously to bring the measure before a town meeting if the ballot question is approved. Residents at town meeting would be asked to form a committee to oversee a CPA fund and make recommendations at town meeting on how to spend the money.
The CPA proposal was endorsed by three selectmen: Chairwoman Deborah Torchia, Stephen Langley and Charles Kennedy. Jerry McGovern expressed concerns with the process and Joseph Botaish with the tax impact.
The CPA has also been endorsed by the housing authority, historical commission, recreation committee, open space committee and conservation commission.
In November 2006, residents rejected the CPA by just 232 votes. At that time, a proposed 2 percent surcharge would have added an estimated $75 to an average tax bill.
It marked the third time residents voted on the CPA. One of those times the CPA was coupled with a $1.13 million tax increase via a Proposition 2 1/2 budget override and both requests went down soundly in defeat.
"We've got a lot of feedback, especially from people who have moved into town the last 15 years," Kassler said. "One of the things that attracts them to Wrentham is open space."
In the Attleboro area, only Norfolk and Rehoboth have accepted the CPA. In May 2012, Norfolk residents voted to reduce the CPA surcharge from 3 to 1 percent of their tax bills.
The Wrentham group has a Facebook page, Wrentham Yes on CPA.