Is $30 A Year Too Much For Better Parks, Affordable Housing?

Mack Park Association hosts hotly debated forum on proposed Community Preservation Act that will be on November ballot.

One night after the leading Presidential contenders squared off in a highly contentious debate, the Mack Park Neighborhood Association Wednesday night held a public forum on the controversial Community Preservation Act, which would add 1 percent to the local property taxes to leverage state funds for parks, historic preservation and affordable housing.

Opponents and proponents were almost as passionate about imposing the the proposed CPA tax on Salem homeowners and businesses as President Obama and former Gov. Romney were about taxing millionaires. 

"It is becoming unaffordable to live in Salem," said Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey, an opponent of joining the CPA program.

Tessie Riley Goggin, another opponent, said CPA should stand for "Cannot Possibly Be Allowed."

Other opponents said that Salem property taxes are high and will probably go higher and they cannot afford more taxes.

Proponents argued that Salem is "leaving a lot of money on the table" because it is not part of the CPA program.  

In a program created by the state legislature in 2001, the state collects fees on every sale of property in the more than 300 communities in the commonwealth. But only 148 cities and towns that are part of the CPA program receive matching grants of about 23 percent from the state for local projects.

Estimates were that the average homeowner would pay about $30 more per year in additional property taxes. That would raise about $400,000 in local taxes, which could be leveraged to get an additional $80,000 to $200,000 from the state, depending on the level of state matching grants.

Vote on the CPA Issue Nov. 6

Voters get to decide on Nov. 6 if they want Salem to join the state CPA program.

Christine Sullivan, a supporter and Planning Board member, said, "The future of our city relies on having a good quality of life." She also said, "We are leaving $80,000 to $200,000 in the (state) pot for other communities to get."

Mickey Northcutt, a proponent, said improving parks, preserving historical sites and creating affordable housing options are "three things that make Salem a great city." 

Proponents of joining the CPA argued that Salem needs the additional state money to help pay for a long and growing lists of projects, including several major park repairs, restoring City Hall and helping working people afford to live in Salem.

"If we don't do this (join the CPA), it does not change the fact that we will still be paying" into the state CPA trust fund, Northcutt said.

Salem currently gets nothing from the trust fund. Less than half of the cities and towns in the state are part of the CPA program and receive money.

George Fallon, an opponent of joining the CPA program, called it a "very cynical tax." He said the state was very clever in creating the program, which collects fees on real estate transactions, then offers to return the money to communities that agree to tax themselves.

The proposal on the ballot would increase the tax 1 percent, although state law allows the city to raise the tax up to 3 percent, if the voters approve it. The measure would also allow the maximum amount of exemptions for taxpayers.

Lower Income Homeowners Exempted

Northcutt said families of four would be exempted if they earned less than $78,000 a year. A single senior would be exempted if he or she earned less than $68,460 a year. To receive the exemption, a taxpayer would have to file for the exemption with City Hall.

For all taxpayers the first $100,000 of assessed value would be exempted.

Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, who was not at the Mack Park Association meeting, was said to be strongly in favor of joining the CPA.

Councilor-at-Large Thomas Furey proposed that the city vote on joining the CPA program in 2007, but the City Council voted six to five not to place the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide.

The proponents bypassed the council this year by securing enough signatures on a petition to have the question placed on the ballot. It will be the fourth issue on the ballot.

Spending money on the affordable housing issue seemed to be as controversial as raising taxes.

Mary Costello said she has heard a lot of people are opposed to joining the CPA because it would raise money for affordable housing in Salem. Opponents maintained that Salem already has enough affordable housing.

Proponents of joining the CPA disagreed, saying housing is needed for young teachers, firefighters and veterans of recent military service.




David Pelletier October 18, 2012 at 12:28 PM
90% will go into more poverty subsidies and like the meals tax and tourist tax will never be used to fix the Common or anything else. It is the poverty pimps making the loudest noise. And of course the usual Democrats who love taxes. Vote NO.
windpower October 18, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Show me one teacher ,firefighter ,or veteran that has benefited from this TAX . In fact I see this happening . It passes, a landlord passes the increase on to the above ,they don't know about CPA exemptions and we just taxed the ones we want to help .Sound far fetched ? I doubt it . Even worse we tax our low income masses via this tax . And please don't tell me it won't happen .
John Dumas October 18, 2012 at 12:44 PM
It is not the single $30, it is one of hundreds of things that add up to be unaffordable.
Leonard Nicodemo October 18, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I'm going to vote in favor. I'm a renter in Salem, who enjoys our historical and public spaces. So why wouldn't I?
KlassySalem October 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Alternative titles for this article: CPA: When is enough enough? What does increased affordable housing cost the rest of us? CPA: An extra tax on a select few CPA: Prop 2.5 end-run
KlassySalem October 18, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Increased rent?
KlassySalem October 18, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Gene, you really confuse me. You sound like a republican most of the time, yet trash every republican you can, while supporting the democrat shills who create things like the CPA. What gives?
Pam Ryan October 18, 2012 at 03:14 PM
"The proposal on the ballot would increase the tax 1 percent, although state law allows the city to raise the tax up to 3 percent, if the voters approve it." Add to that the annual 2 1/2% increase is a possible tax every year of 5 1/2%. I can not afford my taxes to go up to 5 1/2% annually, who can?? If you can and you want to please feel free to DONATE it to the city. They are really good at spending it wisely!
zachary antczak October 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
If it went to rehabbing parks and historic sites, I'm all for it. What I'm not for is funneling this into affordable housing, especially when the people it will be helping are exempt from paying. If they can't muster up $30 to improve their neighborhood, why should I help. I'd rather put $30 a year to clean up Lafayette Park, AND KEEP IT CLEAN AND FREE OF VAGRANTS. That is money well spent.
P Murphy October 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
@ Leonard: Of course you would vote for it. You won't have to be paying for it as a renter. This will cost all of the homeowners in Salem = a select few who will be paying for this to benefit all ... ??? I would be in favor of it if EVERYONE in Salem paid something toward this to benefit all. As it is, I'm not and will vote NO. What looks like a tax, smells like a tax, is probably a tax ...
Jessica Nortinne October 18, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Yet another way for Salem to tax us. I pay enough taxes in the city and I don't even have any kids that go to the schools. And when I did they didn't go to Salem schools but still paid my taxes. maybe its time to move
Kim Madrid October 18, 2012 at 04:52 PM
The reason I left Salem in the first place because I couldn't afford apartments around here. Its still to high for a signal female to live in Salem. Unless you go down in the some what bad part of Salem.
gene October 18, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I am undefinable. I believe in responsible government spending, but acknowledge that, since the erosion of families and religious organizations, government has a place in social justice. That is where I part company with the GOP. Each party has their own double standards, but I find the GOP worse.
john October 18, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I will ask this question for about the 100th time. Where is the money they get from double charging taxpayers to go to Winter Island and Forest River? When I was a kid city parks were full of activity today they are far from it.This is another tax(such as the above fees) that will disapear into city hall.It's an increase in tax to do what we already pay for and a vote for it is a self inflicted double tax.You can't trust the mayor on anything or you will end up with results like the enormous increase in healthcare co-pays for city workers that she said would not happen. Don't be fooled.Insted of voting for tax increases,focus on trying to stop the ones she is shoving down our throats.
Don Nadeau October 18, 2012 at 06:10 PM
It's the same 99% vs. 1%. We either strangle our economy with tax cuts to the rich, and run our neighborhoods into the ground, or we raise money for needed maintenance with a general tax or assessments etc. and no state match, or we earmark less than ONE PERCENT because we can't agree to keep our community in order otherwise. And yes it is targetted toward the wealthier residents, who can certainly afford it, though the local restaurants may miss a meal from them. If your home is $200k it's only half a percent, and if you're sitting in a half-million dollar home it's 0.8% and you shouldn't be crying about that. The state match fluctuates based on real estate sales so will increase with improved economy. The state also pitched in other money during these tight times. Towns that have adopted it spread it evenly, if you look at the data available online; and the local board that is required by law to oversee it is balanced (i.e. parks and historical commission members) and gives you the voter representation. So Dave's 90% poverty bogeyman (not an appropriate description of the affordable portion anyway) is not true. And to increase it would require another community vote. It really is in your hands. Do right and smart for your community. Can any go toward extending the bike path downtown?
ryan October 18, 2012 at 06:16 PM
So you don't pay taxes here but you want us to pay more on your behalf? Sounds great.
Nelson Dionne October 18, 2012 at 06:25 PM
You get what you pay for ! If you want to live cheap, look to Peabody. Anything to keep the taxes low. Ask any Peabody parent about the school system. The kind of interesting ideas & thinking that have made Salem the special place that it is, has to be backed up with a few $$ now & then.
windpower October 18, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Madam Mayor .Getting the point here ? As for renters Lenny ,did you read my comment above ? They love a tax you don't know about !! Please commenters spend some time down town in the next few weeks protesting !
john October 18, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I don't think Peabody schools have been taken over by the state,have they?
chester suchecki October 18, 2012 at 07:21 PM
its time to face it mrs mayor and live with the budget you have. the voters os salem are on to your scam with this cpa tax and we dont want it. no more afordable housing. all the historic sites are preserved they just have to be maintained. the city could not maintain pioneer village how is it going to preserve anything else? and as for the rest of it just give it up mrs. mayor your killing us. we are broke!!!!!!!!!!!!1
ryan October 18, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Yeah Nelson, the schools are solid here in Salem. Crime is pretty low too. There are no pot holes on Federal Street.
Mark October 18, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I see that a lot of people here don't understand CPA. We in Middleboro passed CPA about 2 years ago. We put in at 1% - about $24 per year. That will not increase to the allowable 3% UNLESS it goes to ballot again and NOBODY is going to do that - or vote for it. We just got our state match of $55K. Thank you Salem for contributing to the money that we get in our match and not taking any for yourselves. Your fees paid at the registry of deeds are funding my match - thank you. We have just approved our first 2 projects: To put up signage at historic cemeteries and to preserve historic documents. We have diverse opinions on our local Committee - and in the end town meeting chooses to approve the money or not. CPA money can only be spent on certain things. One earlier commenter was afraid that this was going to be some sort of gimmee to low income housing residents. Nothing could be further from the truth. CPA HELPS a town manage it's low income housing. If you don't want to create any - you don't have to. What you may not know is that towns that don't have at least 10% of their housing as affordable - are at risk for hostile 40B developments. In laymen's terms that is housing you don't want and can't stop. Mostly you will be preserving historic stuff, open space and other quality of life things. Check us out http://middleborocpa.org - email questions - I'll answer.
Diane H October 18, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Really???? Let's see now....Salem's current tax rate is 15.63/1000, Peabody's that you think is low and a horrible place to live is 11.82/1000, Marblehead that has no industry really, is considered a "bedroom community" and has one of the best school systems on the Northshore is 10.52????? Let's have a big yahhhhh for low income housing!!!! I have no children in the schools, own two businesses in town and a home and get killed with taxes! My road doesn't get plowed nor do I receive any services other than trash pick up at home...so justify this for me please! I can get interesing ideas and thinking in any town so please share with us your idea of the amazing and mind boggling ideas and thinking that have made Salem the place it is???? Because what I see is more and more low income, more and more stress on our public services, more and more crime, more and more homeless coming even from out of state to this city, parking consultants that come up with great schemes at a great price that aren't really working, City hall housing offices in rented space at a huge price that doesn't meet the needs of City Hall or the people in town, Condos built with no parking but access to a garage with no guarantees of a space, a mall that is a mess, etc. etc etc...I could go on and on but somehow feel my words would be falling on deaf ears......but please educate me on why this is such a good thing????
Diane H October 18, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Aren't you somethng.....So if you have a nice house and pay lots of taxes in Salem, you must be wealthy and you can afford this tax....really??? So, if like everyone else, you have a nice house and pay lots of taxes but lost your big income and are struggling to hang on to your home you should what???? You think that doesn't happen in Salem...that we should all just suck it up and give yet another one for the gipper??? Really??? I am done with the blood suckers that spend "100.00 bucks in the corner store on crap with their welfare cards and God only knows how much they hand over to their dealer each week...and it all comes out of our pockets. So, please do not preach to me about how I must be able to afford this and to stop crying about it! We are not the ones running the neighborhoods into the ground...it's those that live in the neighborhood doing that ! Wake up.
matt buchanan October 18, 2012 at 09:55 PM
What gets me the most is that this issue was voted down by the citizens of Salem a few years back, it was shut down by the council a month or two ago, now it's up again for a vote due to a petition. I was asked to sign the petition and when I said I wouldn't sign because I didn't know enough about the law I was told that it was, "just to put it on the ballot for the voters." Here's the thing, it was already on the ballot for the voters. Democracy becomes a farce when an argument like this is used to bring forward a ballot issue. It appears that democratic ideals matter when the "correct" vote is cast.
Cwheels October 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Peabody was one of the first to pass the CPA, funny you think it still looks like a toilet. Did you really just suggest that those opposed to the CPA are in the 1%?
Cwheels October 19, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Mark, It sounds like you don't really understand our city. To the point of 40b housing, we have more then our 10% and are still having new developments shoved down our throats. Glad you love your new tax in Middleboro, enjoy.
Ed Carroll October 19, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Matt you are right my friend...How many times do we have to vote it down. Lets get the economy stabilized and then go for the open spaces etc..Other wise we will need the open spaces and parks to pitch our tents for a place we can afford to live.
Edward October 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM
"Is $30 A Year Too Much For Better Parks, Affordable Housing?" Yes. I'm still voting no.
Frank Kulik October 22, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Folks, the City did not plow one inch of snow last year. Did any of those unused funds go to historic preservation or open space? To paint the Common fence? To restore and upgrade City Hall? I'll bet that not one unused dollar was spent on the Mayor's shopping list for CPA funds. Nor was there an offer from City Hall to reduce property taxes by the unused amount either. Just something to think about before you vote.


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