The Community Preservation Act in Fall River: A Primer
On November 6, 2012, voters in Fall River will have the opportunity to approve a referendum that would adopt the Community Preservation Act in the city. This primer has been prepared to inform the public about the CPA and, if approved, how it would work in Fall River.
Why do we need the CPA?
Improving Fall River’s quality of life depends on the availability of funds to improve the city’s parks, historic architecture, recreational amenities, and neighborhoods. However, for generations, the city has not budgeted sufficient funds for these quality of life amenities. If we want to keep our families in the city, and if we want to improve the city’s economy, we need to provide more resources to make Fall River a better community.
What can the CPA fund?
The Community Preservation Act would fund improvements to parks and recreational facilities, the preservation of historic architecture and historic places, open space protection, and meeting local families' housing needs through the revitalization of city neighborhoods.
Who decides how CPA funds would be used?
Following the adoption of the CPA, a Fall River Community Preservation Committee would be formed to review projects and make recommendations to the City Council. Only projects voted and approved by the City Council would move forward.
How much will CPA cost me?
CPA funds in Fall River would be raised by a 1.5% surcharge on all residential and commercial real estate tax bills (not the assessed value). The average Fall River household (with a house assessed at $215,000) would pay $19 a year to the CPA fund.
How much income would be raised through the CPA?
A 1.5% surcharge would raise $762,000 each year. In addition, funding from the State’s CPA Trust Fund would add another 25% to that amount, bringing the CPA total to approximately
$1 million every year. Significantly, the $1 million in CPA funds would allow the City to access an additional $1 million to $10 million each year in state and federal grants, depending on the funding program. Our small $19 investment would yield a major return.
Are there any exemptions?
Fall River would have two exemptions: the first $100,000 of residential property value and a low-income exemption. For example, for a home assessed at $215,000, the first $100,000 of value would be exempted and only $115,000 would be subject to the CPA surcharge. Under the low-income exemption, a two-person household earning under $48,400 would qualify for the exemption; for seniors, a two-person household earning under $60,480 would qualify. Seniors living in public housing would be automatically exempt from the CPA surcharge, since the Housing Authority pays no taxes.
Would the CPA have an impact on the city’s economic development and job creation?
Yes, very much. The CPA would bring to Fall River between $1 to $10 million in construction spending that would otherwise not happen in the city. This funding would also have a “multiplier effect” by creating other jobs in other economic sectors. In addition, funding improvements to parks and historic architecture would make the city more attractive for tourism and to businesses that may want to move into the city. The CPA would be an economic plus for the city.
Doesn’t the city get enough state and federal funds now?
Fall River consistently loses out on getting state and federal grants because it doesn’t have the matching funds. For example, a state grant to improve North Park had to be given back a few years ago because the City didn’t have the $72,930 to match the grant. The CPA would finally give the city the ability to leverage state and federal funds to improve the city’s quality of life.
Could elected officials divert CPA funds to other purposes?
No. State law requires that CPA funds be used only for the purposes stated in the CPA state legislation.
Shouldn’t this money be used to fund public safety or other essential city services?
The City can always increase the budget for essential services through the regular budgetary process. CPA funds are not transferable to other city services. If the CPA is not voted, the state matching funds will go to other communities.
Can CPA funds be used to improve private historic homes?
The state act allows CPA funds to be used to improve historic homes only if an “important public purpose” is served, such as saving a significant historic structure. However, the City Council has made it clear that it will not approve using CPA funds for private residences.
What kind of housing would CPA produce?
That is entirely up to each community. In Fall River, it is expected that CPA funds would be used to stabilize neighborhoods by rehabilitating blighted rental housing that is currently occupied by households that are low to moderate-income.
What is the Community Preservation Committee? What responsibilities will it have in implementing the CPA in Fall River? Who appoints them and for what terms? How many members are on the committee?
Every community that adopts the CPA must, by state law, create a Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The Community Preservation Committee has the responsibility to work with the community in recommending projects to be funded each year with CPA funds. Before the CPC makes its recommendations to the City Council, it must hold at least one annual hearing to accept comments from the public, although it can accept recommendations from the public at any time. Each year, the Fall River City Council will make the final decision on the use of the CPA funds, based on the recommendations of the CPC.
The first five Committee members are selected as follows: one representative each from the Conservation Commission, Park Board, Planning Board, Historical Commission and Housing Authority. Board members would select one person from their membership to be on the CPC. If the City decides to add additional members to the CPC (up to four more are allowed), it will also decide how those members will be chosen: by appointment, election or from existing departments or commissions. The length of terms for all CPC members will be determined by the City Council.
Can the 1.5% surcharge be increased or reduced later?
Yes, the surcharge can be increased in ½ percent increments up to 3% at any time, or it can be decreased, using the same process as when the CPA was originally adopted.
Can a community opt out of CPA if it chooses?
Yes, a municipality may, following five years from initial adoption, vote to end participation in the CPA.
What has been the experience in other communities with the CPA?
The 148 communities that have adopted the CPA have found that it is a game-changer. Instead of lamenting what they can’t do each year because of a lack of funds, they now have a positive outlook because they now have the funds to realize important community projects. The CPA makes things happen!
When will the referendum on the Fall River CPA be held?
The referendum will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
Places that could benefit from the CPA (This is only a partial listing)
Parks and recreation:
Fr. Travassos Park
South Watuppa/Bleachery Ponds Park
Quequechan River Bike Path and Greenway
Cook Pond Bike Path and Greenway
Mount Hope Bay Bike Path and Greenway
South Watuppa Pond/Bleachery Ponds Bike Path and Greenway and Park
Historic Buildings and Landscapes
Oak Grove Cemetery
The Public Library
Fall River Historical Society
Water Department buildings
Lafayette Durfee House
North Burial Ground
Little Theatre Fire Barn
Fall River Art Association
Anawan #6 Fire Museum
Open space in neighborhoods.
Unprotected parcels in the Bioreserve.
Unprotected parcels in the watershed.
The Urban Greenways listed above.
Stabilizing neighborhoods by repairing deteriorated housing to remove blight.
(Edited to 6/26/12)