CPC Chairman Presents 2009 Report

Published May 8, 2009 | Community Preservation Committee | Automatically Archived on 9/1/2009

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CPA-in-Sudbury Overview Presentation

Delivered at 2009 Town Meeting  4/6/09

Christopher Morely, Chairman, CPC

As noted, I’m Chris Morely, Planning Board member and Chairman of the Community Preservation Committee.  The next several articles are CPC articles, and we are going to begin¾ as we do every year¾ with a hopefully-five-minutes-or-less version of  the “State of the CPA in Sudbury”.  Then we will move on to Article 22 and the ones that follow it.

The Community Preservation Act

          Provides Funding for:

               Open Space: (10% minimum)

               Community Housing (10% minimum)

               Historic Preservation (10% minimum)


          Adopted in Sudbury in March 2002

          First Appropriations at 2003 Town Meeting

It is not news that revenue-side problems and expense-side problems are challenging all of us in our work lives… our personal lives… our civic lives.  On some issues we saw the storm clouds gathering a long way off; other issues seem to come almost weekly, as bolts out of the blue.  All are wreaking havoc on everyone’s budget, everywhere.

Community Preservation Committee

          Christopher Morely, Planning Board (Chair)

          Seamus O’Kelly, At-Large Member

          Lynne Remington, At-Large Member

          John Drobinski, Selectmen

          Sheila Stewart, Finance Committee

          Richard Bell, Conservation Commission

          Sherrill Cline, Sudbury Housing Authority

          James Hill, Historical Commission

          Georgette Heerwagen, Park and Rec Commission

The Community Preservation Committee, as your neighbors and fellow taxpayers, as members of other standing Town committees,   as overseers of the Community Preservation Fund, are keenly aware of the times in which we live.  In response we have not changed course.  Rather, we have rededicated ourselves to the conservative approach that I and the chair before me have presented to Town Meeting for each of the past six years.

Approved CPA Projects (through 2008 TM)

          Open Space                9 projects (387 acres preserved)

          Historic                        16 projects

          Housing                       6 projects

          Recreation                  14 projects

At those past six Town Meetings, we here together have voted to preserve 387 acres of Open Space; have begun 16 historic preservation projects; have approved several different kinds of Community Housing initiatives, like keeping home ownership affordable¾ in perpetuity¾ in some Capes and Ranches that would otherwise be likely “tear-downs”; and we’ve enhanced the physical well being, safety and enjoyment for all residents through miles of new walkways, a track oval and athletic fields.  To date ONE HALF of the cost of all of these projects has been funded by the State of Massachusetts.

CPA Surcharge Analysis

Assessed Value          # of homes      CPA Surcharge                 %

<$450,000                   1352                $150 or less                 24%

$450,000-$550,000     1101                $200 or less                 20% (or 44% cumulatively)

$550,000-$750,000     1566                $300 or less                 28% (or 72% cumulatively)

>750,000                     1564                >$300                          28%

Over the last seven years, three quarters of the households in Sudbury have paid $6 a week or less to make these projects a reality, and to put aside substantial savings that in the future will enable the Town to accomplish much, much more.

Collectively, we have come together as a community to support CPA for an amalgam of reasons and goals, in much the same way that the State turned what was a land bank movement¾ in which Sudbury was a leader¾ into the four categories of the CPA.  For most the main goal remains Open Space preservation.  But ask people to check off exactly why, and you can get very different answers:   “Natural Beauty”.  “The Environment”.  “Town Character”.  “Pay-once-for-the-land-and-never-ever-have-to-provide-Town-services-to-the-people-who-would-otherwise-have-lived-on-it”.  “Other”.  Similarly, more and more groups in town are extremely supportive of Community Housing as being just “the right thing to do”.

In part they point to the Sudbury that I grew up in, where my first grade teacher lived around the corner (she still does), my sixth grade teacher down the road and the fire chief up the hill from her.  Other supporters are just hoping for leverage against Chapter 40B, the state law that, in the name of affordability, often precludes town control over dense housing complexes which are actually intended for the well-off.  Supporters of these two categories, and of Historic Preservation and Recreation, may fully support all four spending categories, or maybe they just accept the state-mandated 10% minimum expenditure for the ones that aren’t really their favorites. 

My point is that whatever the reasons that have brought us together, the CPA in Sudbury has garnered overwhelming support in the past, and is enormously popular statewide.  So far 140 other Massachusetts communities have also adopted the CPA.

That brings us back to the “revenue-side problems” I mentioned in the opening. The CPC knew all along¾ and planned conservatively for it all along¾ that more towns joining the CPA would mean an eventual reduction in the 100% state match.  That hadn’t exactly happened yet last year, but the recession did happen, reducing the State‘s dedicated CPA revenue and trust fund.  The result for Sudbury is the same: last year’s match, paid in October, was 72%.  This year’s match should be around 30%.  That’s still over $400,000, though, an amount with which a great deal can be accomplished here in Sudbury.  State CPA funding comes from transactions at the Registries of Deed: house purchases, yes, but also mortgage refinancings and other legal activities.  The CPC, conservatively, is not counting on our state match percentage to rise anytime soon, but in truth there is no reason to think that it won’t improve as the economy¾ we hope¾ does.  To date the CPA in Sudbury has received $7.2 million from the State of Massachusetts.  Our “CPA bank account“, the Community Preservation Fund, has a balance of $6.5 million, money that the CPC and previous Town Meetings have put aside for future Open Space purchases and other projects.  Given those two numbers, we could think of that entire nest egg as our “free state money” benefit, which is such a key plus of the CPA program.

CPA Revenue Allocation (through FY08)

Open Space                $3,760,355                  23%

Housing                       $2,620,000                  16%

Recreation                  $2,150,009                   13%

Historic                           $949,996                   6%

Administrative                $296,980                    2%

CPF (“Savings”)          $6,587,489                  40%

And that brings us to “expense-side problems”.  The conservative approach that I said we inform you about every year is this: we roughly spend, over time, about 10% in the three areas of Community Housing, Historic Preservation and Recreation.  The intent of this is to preserve revenue for future high-expense projects, which we anticipate mostly to be the acquisition of Open Space rights.  This 10% target is not hard and fast, but in the absence of an especially compelling project, this rough budgeting has and will be a factor in whether the CPC forwards a project for Town Meeting approval.

Our principal “expense-side problem” this year, really, was no worse than having to say “no” to worthy projects.  We had 17 applications, all CPA eligible and all with merits that could be¾ and were¾ thoroughly argued.  However, among other issues I think we felt that Sudbury’s CPA had taken on quite a lot in the last two years; that the state revenue picture was disturbingly uncertain; and maybe we perhaps joined the rest of the nation in hunkering down a bit, getting back to basics.  In fact most of what we will present to you tonight, dollar wise, is Historic Preservation spending out of reserve monies which can only be spent on Historic Preservation.

It is the CPC’s job to review the eligibility of proposed projects, but also to look at the bigger picture, and to take the longer view, something we approach very seriously.  Then¾ and only then¾ do we pass along to Town Meeting those projects that we feel merit your consideration.  And that is what we will now proceed to do.