Shrewsbury residents to vote on Community Preservation Act Nov. 3

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Proponents urge voters to approve surcharge while opponents say time is not right 

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – As they cast their ballot in the Nov. 3 general election, voters will also be asked to approve a measure presented by a citizen’s group, Community Preservation Shrewsbury, requesting the town adopt the  Community Preservation Act (CPA).

The CPA provides participating communities the ability to raise funds for open space, recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing with funding through a surcharge of one percent on the annual property tax assessed on real property, beginning in Fiscal Year 2022, and by annual distributions made by the state from a trust fund established by the Act.

If successful, Shrewsbury will join 176 other communities in the commonwealth who have adopted the CPA.

“The Community Preservation Act is really about the community. This is about all the other things that are quality of life projects that rarely, if at all, get funded,” remarked proponent Jason Molina, campaign manager of Community Preservation Shrewsbury. 

The surcharge alone could amount to $600,000 annually, according to the Committee.  

For the Nov. 3 election, the voters will also be asked to approve a $42 million debt exclusion for a new police station to be built. 

Because of that, the Board of Selectmen has noted while they approve the concept of the CPA, they do not support the passage of it at this time.  

CPA supporters disagree with that opinion. 

“I think what we’ve seen with this pandemic is that people are really making use of the public space that we have,” Martha Gach said. “We have a real opportunity in Shrewsbury to strategically look at our open spaces and figure out how to make them more publicly accessible and how to make them more connected.”

“In the past Shrewsbury hasn’t really elevated its historical properties and assets to the level that other communities have and that’s really a shame because we have lost so much of it,” added supporter Gail Aslanian. 

Melanie Magee noted that “society is too automobile centric and there are few places we can walk without risking life and limb.” 

The cost to the owner of an average single-family home valued at $478,603 in FY2020 is $47.21.  Qualifying low-income and low to moderate-income senior property owners would be exempt.  

Benjamin Tartaglia, wrote the opposing argument that can be found in the Notice of Ballot Questions that was mailed to Shrewsbury residents. 

He argued that the CPA is financially irresponsible and “the initial one percent operational override real estate surtax can be raised to 3 percent…”

“The CPA proposal is a financially irresponsible kind of Proposition 2-1/2 operational override. It automatically raises the override amount every year. It is the wrong method, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons and with wrong assumptions,” he wrote. 

“’Matching’ State funds does NOT mean the State will match our tax dollars dollar for dollar. The proposal estimates the town will receive $500,000. BUT, it is NOT guaranteed. It is a VARIABLE distribution,” he added. 

Tartaglia also states in his argument “the COVID virus is on the rebound. Our schools’ finances are uncertain. We don’t know when we will be back to work. Family finances are under historic pressures. The state’s revenues are plunging. Meals, gasoline, excise and income taxes are all down.”

“The proposal should be postponed until our finances improve,” he added. 

For more information on both sides of the question, visit https://shrewsburyma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8372/Ballot-Question-Mailing—September-25-2020.