Westborough holds public input session on possibly opting into CPA

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee (CPAEC) Chair Jenn
Doherty presented about the benefits and costs of Westborough joining the Community
Preservation Act (CPA) at a public meeting at the Westborough Fire Station on Oct. 7.

Doherty, who is also the chair of the Westborough Historic Commission, said that the CPA
allows communities that opt in to it to apply up to a three percent surcharge on their real
estate tax amount, which the state supplements with a varying amount of matching funds.

The money raised is then dedicated to projects related to affordable housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation, Doherty said.

“CPA really supports those projects that benefit a community that are desired but often under-funded,” Doherty said.

Doherty said that each year, CPA communities have to commit at least 10 percent of the funds they raise to each of the three CPA categories. She added that if there are no projects in a given category, the 10 percent still has to be banked, though it can be spent at a later date.

Doherty specified that the surcharge is applied to the amount that property owners pay in taxes and not the property’s valuation. The state match is generated by a fee collected at the Registry of Deeds, which Doherty said every community pays into, regardless of whether they have adopted the CPA.

“So, Westborough has been paying this fee for the past twenty years but hasn’t received
anything back,” Doherty said.

Doherty said that the CPAEC was looking at a 0.5 percent surcharge to limit the impact on the average single-family tax bill to around $50 if Westborough opts in to the CPA.

She also showed a map of Massachusetts with communities that have not adopted the CPA in red and those that have in green.

“Westborough is the red circle, we are sort of surrounded by a sea of green,” Doherty said.

She also said that out of the 187 Massachusetts communities that have adopted the CPA, only three of them have held votes on whether to opt out of it again. None of the votes have succeeded.

“It’s pretty obvious that once communities adopt CPA, they see the benefits of it and don’t
repeal it,” Doherty said.

Doherty said that the CPAEC will make a recommendation to the Select Board about whether to place an article asking to approve a ballot question regarding the CPA. If that ballot question were to then pass, Westborough would adopt the CPA.

The meeting was sparsely attended. Most of the people present were members of the CPAEC.

One of the two attendees who was not a member, Leigh Emery, was formerly a member.

The other of those two, Ted Gilbert, said that he attended the meeting after seeing an email from Select Board and CPAEC member Shelby Marshall.

Gilbert said that the CPA seemed useful for preserving the aesthetics and environment of
Westborough and said that he would vote to approve it at town meeting and/or on the ballot.

“Per person it really isn’t that much to pay for some obvious benefits for preserving the
downtown,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert also said that he wanted to know why Westborough has not yet become a CPA
community while the communities surrounding it have.

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