Community Preservation Act moves forward in Westborough

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Community Preservation Act moves forward in Westborough
Westborough Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee Chair Jenn Doherty speaks during Town Meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – The question of whether to adopt the Community Preservation Act will be on Westborough voters’ ballots in November following a vote at Town Meeting earlier this month.

“This is just the first of two steps to adopt CPA,” said Jenn Doherty, who chaired the Westborough Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee, during Town Meeting March 19. 

If Westborough adopts the CPA, it will join neighboring communities like Grafton, Hudson, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Southborough in doing so.

“I believe that we all love Westborough as much as they love their towns,” said committee member Kris Allen. “We care as much about our open space and recreation, about affordable housing and about historical preservation. It’s time for Westborough to catch that boat and vote to put CPA on the ballot in November.” 

Committee proposes 0.5% surcharge

The CPA is a program with funds coming from the state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund and a surcharge on real estate property taxes. 

CPA money can be used for affordable housing, open space and recreation and historic preservation projects in the community.

All funding requests are voted on by Town Meeting. 

Westborough is proposing a 0.5% surcharge. 

That would translate to an approximately $42 impact on tax bills for residential property owners.

“Our goal was to make CPA as affordable as possible for Westborough residents,” Doherty said. 

The committee recommended that the town adopt total exemptions for low-income property owners and low- and moderate-income senior property owners over the age of 60. Additionally, there would be an exemption for the first $100,000 of valuation for all property owners.

Community Preservation Act moves forward in Westborough
An aging playground structure currently stands at the Armstrong School in Westborough. It will be replaced following a Town Meeting vote this month. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

Doherty said that CPA  could have been used on projects that were also passed at this year’s Town Meeting — such the replacement of a bridge in the Bowman Conservation Area and the replacement of the Armstrong Elementary School playground – if Westborough had already had it in place. 

Residents weigh in

Residents shared their thoughts on March 19, with some opposing the CPA article’s passage.

“Westborough already has very high property taxes,” said resident Steven Buttiglieri.

Property taxes are going to continue to “skyrocket” over the next several years, and costs are increasing for electricity, natural gas and heating gas, he said. 

“This is an incentive to raise taxes and increase spending,” Buttiglieri said.

Others voiced their support, including Ellen Church, who recently moved to Westborough from Northborough. 

She recalled voting for articles to be funded through CPA when she attended Northborough town meetings. There, the CPA funded projects like a renovation of the Northborough Free Library renovation and open space acquisitions. 

“We’ve been spending it, and it’s a really good investment,” Church said.

Resident Jody Hensley said she wished that Westborough adopted the CPA 20 years ago.

“I think it is smart and responsible stewardship of our dollars by the community to set it aside for those things that are sometimes considered nice to have, but are very important, like historic preservation, and open space and recreation,” Hensley said.

Next steps

Town Meeting will discuss the CPA again next March if Westborough voters decide to adopt it in November. 

At that point, Town Meeting would be asked to vote to establish the Community Preservation Committee.

Funds would begin to be collected on tax bills beginning in July 2023.

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