LEE — Lee voters will consider Tuesday whether to pay extra on their property tax bill to fund restoration of local historic landmarks, preservation of open space, creation of recreational facilities and increasing affordable housing stock.
Question 3 on the Nov. 3 presidential ballot, which is a local-only question, calls for adopting the state’s Community Preservation Act program. If approved, Lee would impose a 1.5 percent surcharge — the maximum is 3 percent — on the assessed value after the first $100,000 on homes and businesses. Lee seeks to become the eighth Berkshire municipality to adopt the CPA created 20 years ago.
The tax would take effect in fiscal 2022, starting July 1, and add $36 to the average single-family homeowner’s annual real estate bill, according to supporters.
“We view this as a quality-of-life issue,” Bill Mathews said.
Mathews and Chairwoman Susan Stone serve on the Lee Historical Commission, which is backing passage of the CPA program.
“The emphasis isn’t on historic preservation, but good use of open space and having more affordable places to live,” Stone said.
Since 2000, 177 Massachusetts cities and towns have adopted the CPA, including Pittsfield, Lenox, Williamstown, Becket, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and, this year, West Stockbridge.
Supporters admit that adding a tax during the current state of the economy might not be popular, but they note that Lee is losing money to those communities that have accepted the CPA.
“Every city and town in Massachusetts have been paying into the CPA since it was enacted in 2000. They pay every time any property is bought and sold,” backers said in a joint statement. “In the past few years alone, had we adopted CPA already, we would have received [an estimated $500,000.]”
CPA communities receive money through local taxation and state allocations every October, from money raised through recording fees collected at Registry of Deeds offices across the commonwealth. In 2019, the Legislature increased the recording fees as more than half the 351 cities and towns had adopted the Community Preservation Act.
Lee is one of nine communities statewide with a CPA ballot question Tuesday.
If Lee voters say “yes,” a nine-member Community Preservation Committee would be formed, with one member each representing the Planning Board, conservation commission, historical commission, housing authority and youth commission. The Lee Select Board would appoint four at-large community members to round out the panel.
“Once the committee is established, there is a lot of work involved; bylaws to be established and projects to review,” Stone said.
The committee would review and approve proposals submitted by local groups — proposals that require town meeting approval.