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Letter to the Editor: The Community Preservation Act

The following letter to the editor was sent in by Salem resident Sara Maurno

Smart homeowners know the best investment they can make is in the value of their properties, which is intrinsically linked the larger community.

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is exactly the kind of investment this city needs to make to maintain the revitalization we’ve enjoyed in recent years.

After the forum hosted by the Mack Park Neighborhood Association last week, I’m very confident about supporting CPA (voting YES on question #4), which would add 1% to Salem property taxes to leverage state funds for parks, open spaces, historic preservation and affordable housing. The State would match the funds for between 25% and 50%. The tax would represent about $30/year (12.1 cents/day), and only from property owners who can afford it.  

The opposition maintains that the CPA would make Salem less affordable to live. The rewritten CPA exempts four-person households earning $78,240 or below, and $68,460 for a senior-citizen household of one. The first $100,000 in property value is exempt for EVERYONE.

CPA funds are for earmarked for 1) improving parks and open spaces; 2) preserving historic landmarks; and 3) keeping our community affordable. Think of repairing the dilapidated fence around Salem Common, or making housing affordable for community workers like teachers and firefighters. Two CPA proponents are Mickey Northcutt, Executive Director of the North Shore Community Development Coalition, and Christine Sullivan, CEO of the Enterprise Center, two people invested in the value of affordable housing and business growth in Salem.  

Sullivan pointed out, "The future of our city relies on having a good quality of life…We are leaving $80,000 to $200,000 in the pot for other communities to get." Fully 148 Massachusetts communities are CPA recipients, including Gloucester. Salem pays into CPA; let’s protect what we have already, while adding value to the entire community. All for 12.1 cents a day.

Sara Maurno, resident and homeowner

gene November 03, 2012 at 12:53 PM
This article is filled with half-truths and distortions. You write "The tax would represent about $30/year (12.1 cents/day), and only from property owners who can afford it. " Does that mean if I get laid off I won't have to pay? Of course not. What's more, the $30/year is an estimate of what SOME people will pay to START. As we all know nothing goes down (when was the last time there was a tax decrease in this City?). You also write, "The State would match the funds for between 25% and 50%." Well the last time this came up for a vote the pro-tax people (Yes it is a tax) kept saying the state would match the funds for 100%. Yet, lo and behold the state soon cut funding. The same can and probably will happen again. The state will cut CPA funding before schools, police, and roads. This is nothing more than a sinister attempt to circumvent a tax override. If this funding is so important do it the right way - seek an override. As far as playgrounds go, when former Mayor Usovicz cut park funding neighborhood groups ran fundraisers to upgrade or keep open parks. They can do the same now. People will be happy to VOLUNTARILY support these efforts. Finally, it's interesting that the persons most adamantly supporting this tax are the ones who will benefit the most - City officials and those hoping to get a job running the new CPA department. Yes, that is one thing the the pro CPA Tax people won't tell you! Enough is enough - Vote No to preserve Salem!
Jack Carver November 03, 2012 at 02:12 PM
"making housing affordable for community workers like teachers and firefighters." You know what makes housing unaffordable for people like this? Section 8 housing, when Landlords are guaranteed rents from section 8 of up $1400 a month and only $300 from the section 8 recipient. The landlords raise their rents accordingly putting rents out of reach for community workers like teachers and firefighters. Not to mention the average working family that make less then teachers and firefighters. The average section 8 family gets around $70,000 a year in benefits. (ssi,rent. food, heat, health care, and now it seems cell phones)
john November 03, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Cities,towns and the federal government raise our taxes constantly without our permission,they don't need it. The day we as taxpayers start voting FOR tax increases is the day we have all lost our minds.
windpower November 03, 2012 at 07:36 PM
With a little looking you will find that MS Maurno has vested interest in passing CPA . Oh that darn internet !
gene November 03, 2012 at 07:47 PM
As Col. Klink used to say "very interesting." Backs up my earlier post about this tax being supported by those who will benefit the most. Also, how does the Salem Driscoll I mean Salem News support this but editorializes against taxes everywhere else? The correct answer wins you a Tom Furey puppet.
windpower November 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I have one already Beaker from the muppets !
chester suchecki November 05, 2012 at 03:37 AM
gene, it wasnt col klink it was artie shaw dressed as a german soldier on the comedy tv show laugh-in . to quote the entire script was " very interesting but stupid!"
Dan H November 05, 2012 at 10:37 AM
I still have a problem with raising taxes for the citizens of Salem, rather I would propose finding alternative revenue avenues to explore and utilize without affecting the people who live here. The Mayor is pushing the town to be a tourist attraction that rivals any other in the state, well lets look at that and find another revenue stream that we can then utilize to beautify and rehab the city parks.
Don Nadeau November 05, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Well, calculate your amount. And how much has gone to these quality-of-life-projects in Salem from taxes that are NOT earmarked. My amount, because I am not poor or elderly limited income, would be - after the across-the-board $100,000 exemption - wait for it... $8 per year. I can afford that if I can afford two or three cups of coffee out per year. AND it will be matched by our earmarked state taxes or fees, more when real estate recovers, less during tighter times but still, 20% return on our investment is better than most investments make now. Regardless of whether this investment in my community passes and I get a 20% or 100% state match, it is the good thing to do, and I am writing my $8 check to the city for these projects now and going forward!
Don Nadeau November 05, 2012 at 05:40 PM
(I'll probably round my check up to $30 to match the obligation of two-person owners of $700,000 homes, or single owners of $400,000 homes. Do the math.)
Don Nadeau November 05, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Regarding Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, assistance is paid to private landlords for about 3 million households NATIONWIDE. That is not enough to drive up general rents, even if it were allowed, which it is not. Participating landlords cannot charge more than a reasonable rent under the contract. It is subject to the Fair Market Rent cap, which HUD sets by looking at rents in various communities, so the tail doesn't wag the dog, as is feared above. Example FMR for NYC is $1280, and less than $500 in many other communities.
Don Nadeau November 05, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Another mistake in the argument: they use the average real estate value. Salem is fairly uniform in value, with a small percent of much more expensive property that skews the average. So what MOST voters who actually own homes or businesses would pay (this revenue benefits everyone but wealthier homeowners pay for it) should be based on the MEDIAN value. The MEDIAN value per realtor dot com for Salem is $260,000. Subtract the $100,000 exemption and the max tax is 1% (unless the VOTERS approve another ballot in the future) ... Which is $16. That's $8 each for a two-breadwinner home PER YEAR. So maybe I won't increase my "Community Preservation Fund" donation check to $30 after all. ;-) BTW the value generated quick calc is $700,000 per year plus the state's 22 to 26%. And since real estate transaction fee receipts are down with the current - hopefully ending soon - real estate market slump, this year the state threw another $25 MILLION of OUR taxes from surplus into the pot. Money WE can claim for needed community preservation. Don't rely on donations from the rich or the many.

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