Our Opinion: Make successful CPA even more successful

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The Community Preservation Act, through its own success, has outgrown its parameters. The program, which enables communities around Massachusetts to raise funding for a variety of projects, needs a boost in state funding, and it appears there is reason to believe that support will be forthcoming in 2019.

The premise of the CPA, which is now 20 years old, is for the state to provide a 100 percent match for whatever each participating municipality raises through a property tax surcharge. However, the state's matching funds are derived from a $20 fee assessed on certain real estate transactions through match-rate formulas. The fee and the formula have gone unchanged since 2000, and as more communities join there is less state money for them to divide. According to Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition at a Beacon Hill hearing earlier this week, inflation alone has whittled away almost half of the $20 fee since its institution.

The House has included an extra $36 million in new money for the CPA for this year and each coming year in its budget, and Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed his support. Senate leaders say they will follow suit, though there is always the danger that a good proposal that appears to have solid backing will get lost in the shuffle — or in a committee.

The CPA is generally used by communities to preserve open space, initiate green energy projects, renovate historic buildings, improve parks and build playgrounds and athletic fields. Pittsfield, which adopted the CPA in 2016, has $600,000 available this year, and has received 14 applications for CPA funding totaling $1 million in requests (Eagle, April 20). In 2018, the city's Community Preservation Committee approved CPA funding for 11 projects, including exterior renovation of Springside House, restoration of the front porch of the Thaddeus Clapp House, and upgrades to the athletic track at Taconic High School.

While the Community Preservation Coalition reports that about half of the state's communities are participating in the CPA, it only lists six Berkshire communities as participants, which is disappointing. This is likely due to a combination of opposition to the local property tax surcharge (Pittsfield's is a modest 1 percent) and the sense that there is not enough state money available to make participation worthwhile.

We urge the governor and Legislature to address the latter issue this session. Over two decades, the CPA has proven itself to be a success, and with additional funding the successes in communities across Berkshire County and Massachusetts will continue to grow, along with the number of communities that benefit.

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