I must confess, I put out some misinformation in my last post. Try as I may occasionally some things slip by me. I intimated that this was a slush fund that could be spent without approval at the town meeting. My bad, I was wrong; any expenditure must still pass at an ATM. Now that changes everything!! I guess can't call it a slush fund anymore. I'll have to start calling it a LOCK BOX, or a TRUST FUND. I wonder if it’s like the social security trust fund. I know, let's call it a war chest to fund all the committee projects that fall under the ever encroaching shadow of the CPA.
You may call it what you like, but I call it just another tax scheme and let me tell you why. Under the guise of “community preservation” the state decided to tack a fee to every piece of property being sold. In the beginning of the program all of the fees were attached to sale of the property including the 3% surcharge. However, with a lot of push back from realtors the rules were changed. These fees were to be collected and redistributed to communities for the purpose of preservation, and they are. However, getting the money back to your community is not as easy as it sounds.
Here's how the scheme works. The state collects a fee from the sale of every property sold in the state; and believe me they have collected a lot of money. This money is then set aside to redistribute back to communities for the purpose of “community preservation”. So the state takes your money and gives it back to you; well sort of. Strict rules make it so you can only spend it on certain things and then only if you first agree to CPA terms and conditions. The first condition is that you bypass proposition 2-1/2, the law that was designed to protect property owners from being overtaxed. Isn't it amazing that as soon as a law like Prop 2-1/2 is passed the politicians create new and better ways to get around it.
Anyhow, these monies are given only to communities who join the CPA. Communities wanting to join have to override proposition 2-1/2 and pass a property tax surcharge of one to three percent above and beyond the 2-1/2% maximum allowed by law. In other words if communities want to get their money back they have to pay another tax. Note that towns overtaxing their people at the 3% level will receive more of the funds than towns overtaxing citizens by only 1%. Basically the state has set up a system whereby they take your money with the promise of giving it back to you with up to 100% increase. I don’t know about you but this sounds like another government sponsored Ponzi scheme. Why not just leave the money in the hands of the people and let them preserve their own communities as they see fit. After all, Egremont has a long history of supporting their town projects. Just last year we paid $24,000.00 to start the process of preserving the schoolhouse and the library. All without the state taking our money and stingily doling it back to us.
Okay, now let’s look at what happens to the money if we do actually pass the MCPA. Let's say we want to receive as much of the state matching funds as we can, which means we would have to go all in. Mary Brazie said it would raise about 90k per year at 3%. They will have taken all this money from their friends and neighbors in hopes of doubling it with matching state funds. Ok, let's say that we do qualify for 100% matching funds and we collect 180k per year. Now how do we spend the money?
That’s the interesting part. We would have to set up a committee to review all of the applications for funding. Its board would consist of members from all of the committees that will be competing for the funds. This committee would decide which applications go onto the warrant for the people to vote on. Now I’m not saying that this committee wouldn’t be fair in determining who goes on the warrant; but talk about conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.
Charlie Flynn wants to start low at 1%. Not because he doesn't want to take full advantage of all that state money. Rather he knows that the town would never approve a 3% tax hike; but he does think the town might approve a 1% CPA surcharge. I hope for our sake he’s wrong.
I believe adopting this act would be a disaster for our town despite the glowing review of the Friends of Egremont History (FOEH). FOEH stated that we should “join those towns who now are reporting good benefits from the act”. What FOEH didn't mention in their rosy review is the towns that were almost devastated by this act. Nor did they mention the fact that it is more often the wealthy towns that take the lions share of the monies; at the expense of the poorer towns. It’s the reverse Robin Hood syndrome where the state robs the poor and gives it to the rich. This was found in a HarvardStudy of the CPA. Follow this link to read the study for yourself.