The Committee recommends passage of the Community Preservation Act in Shirley – Sentinel & Enterprise | Wonder Mind Kids

SHIRLEY — After almost a year of meetings, research and outreach, with positive input from nearby towns that have benefited from the passage of the Community Preservation Act — Ayer, Groton and Lancaster — the CPA Implementation Committee has concluded that it would be a blessing for Shirley, too.

Chair Paul Przybyla presented the committee’s recommendations to the Special Committee at its October 17 meeting.

A one-line headline might read: We should adopt CPA, here’s why.

Summarizing his group’s 20-page report, Przybyla provided an abridged but insightful overview, outlining the history of the CPA, how it works and how it could benefit the city.

The committee, appointed by the Select Board earlier this year, consists of Przybyla and three other members, Janet Tice, Nancy Henderson and Marie Elwyn, who represent the Planning Board, the Historic Commission and the Conservation Commission, respectively.

Created in 2000 as an act of the Massachusetts legislature, the CPA levies a voluntary surcharge on property tax bills from individuals in adopting communities of between 1% and 3% of appraised value.

Unlike other tax increases, the CPA surcharge does not affect the tax rate. “This is not an increase in the tax rate,” said Przybyla.

The committee recommends applying for a 1 percent surcharge at Shirley, he said, omitting the first $1,000 worth, plus a few other exceptions.

In particular, Shirley’s median real estate value for a single-family home — $365,000 — would generate a premium to just $265,000. At one percent, that adds $39 to those annual tax bills, Przybyla said.

Under the law, funds raised by cities – supplemented by “matching” funds from the state – are set aside in a CPA account that can only be accessed to help fund community initiatives and projects in three categories: open spaces and recreation outdoors, affordable housing and heritage preservation, with 10% of the balance earmarked from inception for each of these purposes.

The remaining 70% can be assigned – in whole or in part – to one of the three categories.

Estimates based on appraised property values ​​suggest the city could earn $100,000 from CPA surcharges in the first year, with an additional $32,000 from the state, Przybyla said.

Among other statutory provisions, the CPA’s nest egg is overseen by a committee made up of representatives from councilors related to the CPA categories, as well as members from the general community.

The CPA Committee’s responsibilities include reviewing project applications and making recommendations to governing bodies such as the Town Meeting, which has the final say on how that money is spent.

Regarding upcoming projects specific to Shirley, Przybyla said CPA funds could help historic city buildings such as the War Memorial Building, Schoolhouse No. If approved as a CPA project, it would have less impact on the city budget.

Privately owned buildings important to the community are also eligible for CPA funding, such as the Historic Meetinghouse, Przybyla pointed out.

The possibilities Przybyla mentions are not endless given the legal restrictions. But they are persuasive.

With three historic neighborhoods in Shirley and a number of planned or upcoming community projects, CPA funds could help lower the city’s overall costs and advance important initiatives. In addition to the buildings, Przybyla noticed a few: new lawns and lights for the city’s athletic fields, for example, and/or replacing the pool liner at Benjamin Hill Park.

Not all parameters of the law are set in stone. For example, CPA funds can be used to leverage loans or provide the city with the necessary “matching funds” for a state grant, Przybyla said.

On behalf of the committee, he asked the Select Board to include an article on the warrant for the November 5 City Assembly seeking adoption of the CPA.

If passed by a majority of the city assembly, the measure would be put on the ballot for the May 2023 city election, he said, and if city residents approve, the next step would be the creation of the CPA committee. Once approved, the surcharge would apply for the next fiscal year, he said.

The board voted unanimously to insert the warrant article as requested and to follow the committee’s recommendations if the CPA were adopted, a move all three members said they supported.

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