Friday, February 28


          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.


  1. Hi Keven,

    Some good information and some good points here. I'm not a big fan of the tone and sarcasm, but that's your business. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to care about our town.

    Just want to point out that the language around tax increases is tricky. If a sales tax goes from 5% to 6.25% do we call it an increase of 1.25% or do we call it an increase of 25%?

    Just as some of the language of the proponents of the CPA may be true but misleading, I find calling this an increase of 3% misleading.

    The clearest way I can think to state it is: At 3% surcharge this would be a TAX INCREASE of approximately 25-cents per thousand on your property tax.

    Gary Warner

    1. Gary
      Thanks for the comment and for noticing that in spite of my tone and sarcasm I do care about our town. I don't intend to ratchet it back either.
      Now you're using the old used car sales technique of reducing it to the ridiculous. Get the person focused on the small monthly payment so they don't realize that they're getting their head cracked with the sticker price.
      A quarter here, another quarter there, oh and don't forget the quarter on that. My only question is where does it end?

  2. No Kevin, I did not reduce it to the ridiculous. I stated it in a way that is more accurate and less misleading than the way you state it. It's no ridiculous to state the truth accurately.

    No Kevin, I'm not trying to use a technique to get a person focused on the small payment. I'm not trying to get them focused on anything but the truth.

    You pick on others for using terms like "surcharge" that are true but misleading. Since you won't hold yourself to the same standard, I'm doing it for you.

    Don't put words into my mouth. Don't assume that I'm saying something or have meaning that I didn't write.

    Gary Warner

    1. Lets be accurate, If a sales tax goes from 5% to 6.25% we can call it a tax increase. The truth is that you now lose another penny and a quarter for every dollar you spend. Or your dollar loses 1.25% of its spending power.
      Now Susan suggested we look at it like a Christmas Club account or like the jar you dump your change in at the end of the night. At the end of the year you have a little money for gifts and vacation.
      The problem is that Community Preservation Committee wants to take everyone's Christmas club money and their vacation change jar then use the money on whatever the CPC wants to spend it on.

    2. Gary you are right, it is misleading It's not a surcharge it's a surTax.

  3. I want to be clear to Kevin and anyone else reading this: I have not made up my mind if the CPS is a good for Egremont.

    As I see there are many details about percentages, exemptions, councils, by-laws, dates by which we have to vote on things, and on and one. But at the root there is one PRO and one CON.

    The PRO, the only real reason to do it at all is the state matching money. Egremont can get monies it otherwise would not have had at no additional cost to Egremont residents.

    While this money does come from taxes or fees collected elsewhere, this will not change whether Egremont adopts the CPA or not. So, relative to Egremont (in our frame of reference) we can get "free" money from the state. That is beneficial to Egremont.

    The CON is that this money is structured in a way that may encourage Egremont to spend money on things we otherwise wouldn't have. IF we use the money to do things we would have voted to-do anyway, it's good. But IF we use the money to do a bunch of things that we really don't think is worth the value...but we do them just because there is now a pot of money that has to be used...then it's not so great, maybe even bad.

    That said, even the "bad" is not "horrible". It's still money spent in Egremont on things that will, more than likely, be beneficial to Egremont.

    Again, I am not FOR this yet. Nor am I against it. I'm trying to speak about it accurately.

    1. I have a question. You say that this tax is only 25 cents per one thousand dollars of assessed value, According to Mary Brazie our estimated tax this year will be $8.25/k. This is up from $7.89 last year. This means that we would be increasing the tax to $8.5/k. My question is what percentage of $8.25 is that mere .25/k?

    2. That ends up being 3 percent

  4. I never said the CPA (max increase) was anything other than 3%. What I said was that putting it in terms of dollars-per-thousand is more accurate and less open to misinterpretation. It's also a common and accepted way people use to talk about property-tax rates.

    Kevin, you communicate in rhetoric and inaccurate and incorrect analogies. Another example is where you call the CPA a "Ponzi Scheme." That term has a specific definition and the CPA does not match it.

    I get that you dislike Susan's calling this like a "Christmas Club." I agree. It isn't like a Christmas club. It's not putting a little away over time and it's not there to be spent by the person saving it.

    The problem I have with you is your hypocrisy in deriding others for the same thing you do yourself.

    Actually the bigger problem I have with you is your attacking people personally when they disagree with you. There is no need for terminology like "The Bachelder / Dave Johnson Property Tax Increase" or the "Juliette Hass Water Tax."

    It's also not appropriate to suppose motivation when you have no possible idea -- as you did by stating what "Charlie [Flynn] really meant" about the CPA.

    It's perfectly acceptable to have differing opinions. It's a value and an asset to be watching out for out town and pointing out some hard truths to people.

    But calling out names, assuming motivations, and putting words in other's mouths is not the way to civil discourse, good governance, or good citizenship.

    Kevin, these are not your enemies. You are not in some political campaign at the national level where "going negative" is necessary to get elected. In fact, you would almost certainly convince more people of your views if you weren't so mean and ugly about it.

    Now that I see what you're about, I'm gonna leave you to your world. Best of luck.

    Gary Warner

  5. Wow.....Gary's writing skills have greatly improved since the last post.

  6. The argument that we should pass the CPA tax because "we get money from the State" is one that we've heard before: the Water Company. At the time the Town did that dumb deal it was loudly argued that it was a great benefit that we would get roughly $4 million in very low cost loans. Well, we're seeing today what a wonderful deal that was for the Town.

    Don't be sucked in. If the use to which the funds will be put doesn't make sense, then it's a dumb decision to spend it, regardless of the fact that the funds are low cost or free.

    Here nobody is even telling us what the CPA tax funds will be spent on. Some "people" will unilaterally decide, year after year.

    Strikes me as dumb.