By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – A committee has formed to advocate for the town of Shrewsbury to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
The CPA is a Massachusetts state law that passed in 2000 and provides communities that have opted-in the ability to raise funds specifically for open space and recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. It is funded through a local option surcharge on property tax bills and a state match or those surcharges.
As of January, 176 communities have opted-in. If Shrewsbury follows suit, the community stands to raise approximately $500,000 annually, according to the Shrewsbury committee.
Under the leadership Melisa Hollenback – chair, and ballot question campaign manager and treasurer Jason Molina, committee members include Martha Gach, Melanie Magee and Barbara Kickham Sahagian. All are passionate about getting this passed as a warrant article at the Annual Town Meeting in May and then by ballot in the November General Election.
When asked why advocate now for the CPA in Shrewsbury, Molina replied, “We all want to see good things happen in Shrewsbury…there are always budgetary pressures on the municipal side. It’s always going to come from the biggest rocks in our town, it’s going to be education, safety, and maintenance but at the end of the day that’s not the only things that makes a community.”
The committee’s ballot question calls for a conservative surcharge of one percent of the tax levy against real property and includes all allowable exemptions. The surcharge can only be changed by referendum.
The average assessed property value in Shrewsbury is $478,603. Each property is allowed a $100,000 exemption automatically taken off of its assessed value. The yearly surcharge for the average property would be $47.41.
It is important to note, committee members said, that there is a 100 percent exemption for qualifying low-income and qualifying low to moderate income senior property owners.
Additionally, when there is a real estate transaction that takes place in town, there are fees associated with filing records at the Registry of Deeds. Buried within those fees are charges that go to fund the CPA Trust Fund at the state level.
“Our money goes elsewhere,” stated Molina. “The beauty of the CPA is that it is an incentive for towns to jump into it because you can get some of that money back and it could be funding projects in town that folks care about.”
Kickham Sahagian explained that if passed, a Community Preservation Commission will be created to vet proposals. Acceptable proposals will be forwarded to Town Meeting for approval.
“We are not trying to steer anything or trying to promote specific things. It’s not an agenda,” she said.
“The Board itself will not promote a project, they only review them,” added Magee. “We have looked at a lot of other towns and the make-up of their boards.”
“Shrewsbury has more open space than you’d think, but it’s tucked away and not connected. We have iconic vistas that help give our town its character,” added Gach in an email. “With CPA, we’d have funds to purchase land, to provide access to existing open spaces, and to make accessibility improvements.”
The committee will be hosting a public information session on Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the Shrewsbury Public Library, 609 Main St. Everyone is invited to come, learn and ask questions.