CPA: A brand new tax on Westborough taxpayers

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Letter to the Editor logoQuestion 5 on the Nov 8 ballot asks if Westborough should adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which raises money from Westborough taxpayers with a surcharge on their property tax bill to get a small percent of it “matched” from the state, and which can only be spent on certain types of projects.

Westborough already has very high property taxes, including a significant FY23 increase, and will likely continue to increase from the “many projects and infrastructure needs on the near horizon” (Advisory Finance Committee). Also, an 8%+ inflation rate and skyrocketing electricity, gas, and oil prices will mean higher costs to the town – increasing property taxes even higher in the future – and higher costs to families’ budgets. CPA would add a new tax on top of all of that. It would start with a .5% surcharge on property taxes but can rise to 3%. Given the propensity of Town Meeting to approve almost all spending, it wouldn’t take long for it to approve increasing the surcharge.

On first look, it might seem prudent to receive money from the state for projects we would do, anyway. However, CPA says that the state already takes $5 from us, and to get that $5 back, the town must take approximately $17 *more* from us. This is an incentive to raise taxes to increase spending. Spending will increase because the mindset of viewing projects switches from, “we have a need to do Project X, how much will it cost”, to, “we have this money, what project should we do”. This leads not only to doing the projects we would do anyway, but we would do many *more* projects and therefore would end up spending much more money with CPA. 

Instead, each project should be evaluated and funded on its own merits, and not viewed from the perspective that “we have a pot of money, so which project should we do”. That way, only the most essential projects would be approved, and avoid adding to our ever-escalating property taxes.

I recommend vote No on Question 5.

Steven Buttiglieri
Westborough