Monday, June 20, 2005

Preserving the Community: Half-Price

I learned last week that there is a group of people here in Watertown trying to gauge support for the Community Preservation Act. The Watertown Tab describes the CPA thusly:

The Community Preservation Act places a 1 to 3 percent surcharge on property taxes. The money is matched by the state and must be used for programs that either preserve a town's historical and natural assets or create affordable housing.

One hundred Bay State communities have passed the CPA, including Newton, which added a 1 percent surcharge. A 2 percent surcharge in Watertown on the average property tax bill of about $4,000 would cost homeowners another $80 per year, but Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said exceptions could be made for low-income and elderly homeowners.
On a whim, my wife and I went to Councilor Falkoff's reelection campaign kickoff on Friday. Former state Senator Warren Tolman was there, and he spoke briefly about the CPA. The most salient point he brought up, in my opinion, was that since the state matches the funds, towns that don't enact the CPA end up subsidizing the towns that do. That pretty much sold it for me. I don't want to pay for a hiking trail in Agawam -- I want my state taxes to go to connecting East Watertown to the Minuteman Bike path. Watertown is in pretty good financial shape compared to other cities and towns, but that doesn't mean we should turn down free money from Beacon Hill, even if it means raising property taxes. Eventually, we're going to have to maintain our historical spots and open spaces, and under the CPA, we can do it at half price.