Important Information for Property Owners in Somerville*
The Community Preservation Act (CPA), initially enacted in 2000 by then-Governor Cellucci, allows communities to create a Local Preservation Fund to raise money through a surcharge on property taxes of up to 3% for open space protection, historic preservation and the provision of affordable housing. [The City of Somerville has proposed a surcharge of 1.5% which, in accordance with the state law, will be assessed on each piece of taxable real estate in the City.] ** Municipalities must enact this locally, via referendum, and to date 148 Massachusetts communities have enacted this legislation on the local level. The CPA Statute also creates a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the Department of Revenue (DOR), which provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted the CPA.
In Somerville, the proposed surcharge will apply to the "net" tax associated with each property. For the purposes of CPA surcharge calculation, the net tax is defined as the tax after the $100,000 valuation exemption as well as, if applicable, the residential exemption, any statutory exemption (senior, veteran, etc.), and any overvaluation. In addition, low and moderate income property owners may be exempt from the surcharge if they meet income and asset limitations upon annual application to the Somerville Board of Assessors. Somerville homeowners would pay an average of $35 per year.
Once adopted locally, the CPA requires that the legislative body annually appropriate - or reserve for future appropriation - at least 10% of the annual fund revenues for initiatives in each of the three categories - open space, historic preservation, affordable housing - with flexibility in spending across the three areas with the remainder of the funds, which may also be rolled over to the following year.
The CPA also stipulates that, if enacted locally, a Community Preservation Committee of 5-9 members representing various boards in the community recommend to the community's legislative body how to spend CPA funds. The legislation requires that there be representation from: the Housing Authority, Historic Commission, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, and Recreation Commission.
Voters in the City of Somerville will vote on this issue in the November 6th election. This webpage is designed to educate voters about the CPA, provide more information on what a passage of the CPA would mean for property owners, and lay out the City's proposal of a 1.5% surcharge in financial terms.
* The explanation included in this section is intended to be informational, without advocating a position on the ballot question.
** Amounts generated by the surcharge are not subject to the levy limitations of Proposition 2 ½.
Proposed Surcharge on Property Taxes
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the surcharge being proposed for my property? The City of Somerville has proposed a 1.5% surcharge.
2. Is the surcharge assessed before or after my Residential Exemption? After. An additional $100,000 exemption is also assessed prior to the 1.5% surcharge.
3. What is the process for enacting the CPA locally, and when would it take effect, if passed? Following an affirmative vote by the Somerville Board of Alderment, the CPA proposal for Somerville will appear as Question 4 on the November 6th ballot. If passed, surcharge would take effect in Fiscal Year 2014, and residents would see the charge beginning on statements from July 1, 2013.
4. What can CPA funds be used for? CPA funds can be used for projects related to historic preservation, affordable housing, and parks and recreational space.
5. Do funds have to be spent equally? The first 30% must be distributed equally across the three areas (10% for each area). After that, the remaining 70% may be allocated to proposals across these three areas or rolled over to be used the following year.
6. Who determines what projects are funded by local CPA funds? The local CPA Committee reviews community proposals and makes specific recommendations to the BOA about projects that could benefit from CPA funds. Allocations are ultimately made by the BOA, though it may not alter any proposals.
7. Will the surcharge rate ever increase? Is this permanent? If Question 4 is passed, the CPA will go into affect and may not be altered for 5 years. After 5 years, any changes to the law must be voted on by a citywide referendum. Similarly, to revoke the CPA, it must be voted on citywide.
8. Where can I find more detailed information on the CPA and its history? Visit the links to the right side of this page for full information.