I can’t understand why some people insist that it’s ok to tax all of the people to give to a charity that they may not agree with. What if the CPC voted to restore the historic First Congregational Church; would there be objections to the violation of the separation of Church and state? If a person wishes to give to any cause they have every right to do so; and they do. It’s called charity and people who have the means to do so support their charities without hesitation. I have a problem with government mandated charitable donations whether that government is federal state or local.
Rather than argue about the immorality of forced charitable donations, let’s look at a positive solution to a very divisive issue. If we set up these charitable trusts as private nonprofits that raise funds from truly charitable donations, we would have four separate trusts. These four trusts would be Historic Preservation, Land Preservation, affordable housing and Parks & Recreation. Those who wish to support any or all of the charities may do so freely.
I’d like to challenge those who want this CPA tax. Take the amount of your property tax bill and multiply it by 3%. Now write a check in that amount to any of these charitable trusts. You may even want to divide it up and give a portion to each of the trusts. You are free to distribute the funds however you wish. Then the trustees of these charities can distribute these funds as they see fit without town meeting approval.
If a person has land that they want to conserve they can either donate it to the land trust or write a conservation restriction into the deed. Not only is this donation tax deductible, it may qualify for state and federal tax credits. When the land trust was short about 50k to purchase a couple of farms an individual donor wrote a check for the full amount. This contribution allowed the deal to go through and a lot of acreage was conserved. All this happened without people being forced to contribute to the CPA. Unfortunately this land is no longer on the tax roll and the deficit is distributed to all the taxpayers. Oh well, another unintentional tax increase.
Historic preservation is important in small towns like Egremont. There are historical buildings that need to be preserved, restored and maintained. I’m sure we have architects in town that would be willing to donate their services or reduce their fees to draw up plans for these projects. Many people would step up to pay for the materials. We also have many skilled artisans who may be willing to do the work on these projects; some for free and others for a fee. This way we’re hiring local craftsmen and building the local economy. People who may not be in a position to give money can donate their time and energy. Everyone benefits and no one is harmed. The cost of doing it this way would be less than half of doing the project with CPA funds and we don’t have to jump through all of the CPA hoops. Oh and best of all, because it’s a private charitable trust we don’t have the church and state conflict.
Then we have the affordable and senior housing trust fund. This fund is set up to be used in a variety of ways, helping low income families to find housing; or helping elderly people on a fixed income to maintain their independence. These funds could be used to bring a home up to code or to build a handicap ramp. And hiring locals to do the work supports our local economy As a bonus, many of the things mentioned here are already subsidized by federal and state tax grant programs which we have already been taxed for. Do we really need the CPA tax to pay for things we have already been taxed for? Besides, the average handicap ramp can be built for a few hundred dollars. Using CPA funds it could cost several thousand dollars to build the same ramp. I think we can do without the CPA.
Let’s not forget Parks and Recreation. We needed to replace the fence at the horse ring last year. When the FC was discussing this line item a citizen offered to pay for the entire project if they would take it off of the warrant. Since the FC didn’t have the authority to remove any items from the warrant the issue went to town meeting and was overwhelmingly passed. The point is we have always taken care of our town and we always will. We don’t need the CPA and all the baggage that comes with this program to take care of our town and our citizens. Let’s say thanks but no thanks to the CPA property tax.