Community Preservation surtax discussed at Town Meeting


By Alison Swallow Nov. 18, 2023


At the final session of Fall Town Meeting on Thursday night, members heard an update on the town’s progress towards adopting the Community Preservation Act (CPA), a state-sponsored program that helps towns raise funds for a variety of capital projects.  According to member Anthea Brady, the Select Board has been discussing the program for the past two years, and planning the best time to bring it before town meeting. Once adopted, the CPA would consist of a tax surcharge not to exceed 3% of homeowners’ tax bills, which would be matched by money from the state. The Select Board plans to conduct public outreach between now and spring, and anticipates bringing an article before town meeting in the spring of 2024.  A town-wide vote would follow in November 2024.


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Select Board Member Michael Bettencourt next presented the financial impact of adopting the CPA.  “At the core of the Community Preservation Act is a surcharge on residents... for different uses which are in high demand and are underfunded at the local level. Certainly, we’ve seen playgrounds [and] historical buildings here that need financial support.” By law, 10% of the money has to go into certain buckets, including affordable housing, outdoor spaces and recreation, and historic preservation. 


A committee would recommend other items for the balance of the funds, and these items would have to be approved by town meeting.  Bettencourt indicated that the town would most likely select an initial surcharge of 1.5 percent, exempt all low-income and commercial/industrial properties from the surcharge, and take $100,000 off all residential property tax amounts before applying the surcharge.  In year one, this would generate approximately $1.5 million in surcharge revenue and an estimated $306,000 in matching funds based on the most recent match of 20 percent (the match percentage fluctuates yearly depending on state revenues).  This would equate to an average surcharge of $194 annually on a $1,230,077 house (after taking off the top $100,000). 


The CPA Study Committee estimated that in the first five years of adopting the CPA, cumulative revenue could be anywhere from $3.1 million to $15.7 million including the estimated match, based on surcharge rates ranging from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent.  According to Bettencourt, potential CPA projects in Winchester could include the renovation of town hall, replacing the library roof and windows, and replacing the chiller equipment at Lincoln elementary school—all needed capital projects that have been waiting years for funding. 


Alison Swallow is a Precinct 8 Town Meeting Member.

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