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CPA funds to decrease with sagging economy

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

SOUTHWICK In 2000, then Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci and Lt. Gov. Jane Swift signed a new piece of legislation establishing a means for municipalities to preserve open space, historical buildings, build affordable housing and recreation facilities.

Until this year, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) has provided matching funds for each municipality that has adopted the law.

However, according to Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, the state's CPA Trust Fund which gains revenue from the collection fees at the Registry of Deeds will not have enough money to match funding for each municipality in fiscal year 2009 (FY09).

According to the Department of Revenue's (DOR) FY09 Budget Issues and Procedures Bulletin, decreasing fee collections at the Registry of Deeds in conjunction with the increasing number of municipalities adopting the legislation currently 133 the account will only have enough funds to match 65 percent of each municipalities levied surcharge.

Saginor explained that municipalities gain CPA funding through adopting a surcharge on local taxes anywhere between one and three percent. Historically, then each municipalities total annual funds are matched via the state's CPA Trust Fund.

According to the DOR's FY09 Budget Issues and Procedures Bulletin, "Division estimates that the balance in the state trust fund will be sufficient to provide a first round match of approximately 65 percent of the surcharge levied by each city and town. This will trigger a second round or equity distribution for those communities that have adopted the maximum three percent surcharge [of three percent]. With the equity distribution, the total state reimbursement for qualifying communities will increase to between roughly 66 percent and 100 percent, depending on the community's quartile and total surcharge amount."

The document further states that percentages are projected to decrease again in fiscal year 2010.

In order to better understand the changes occurring in the legislation and how local Community Preservation Act Committees or Community Preservation Committee (CPC), as they are also called can get more bang for their buck, Saginor will be hosting a presentation and discussion session on July 24 at 7 p.m., in the Land Use Hearing Room.

CPC Vice Chair and also the Historical Commission Representative Barbara MacEwan, noted that the meeting is open to the public and she encourages residents to attend in order offer insight on how the CPC can better use the funds.

She said the CPC currently has a balance of approximately $800,000. MacEwan noted that the majority of projects funded by the CPC in the past have been to preserve open space.

The CPA requires that 10 percent of acquired revenue must be spent on open space, 10 percent on historic preservation and landscapes and 10 percent on affordable housing. The remaining funds may be used for any of the aforementioned categories or for the development of recreation facilities.

MacEwan said that the CPC has allocated funds for the restoration of the old Southwick Public Library and is considering funding for other projects such as the proposed Whalley Park on Powder Mill Road.

Chris Pratt, member of the CPC and also the Conservation Commission Representative, explained that during the upcoming fiscal year he will be lobbying for the use of CPC funds for the preservation of open space.

MacEwan said that in light of the impending decrease in matching funds from the state the CPC will be forced to further "prioritize" future the projects.