Community Preservation Committee plans CPA surcharge increase

Local group plan request for Town Meeting to support affordable housing

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AYER — In an effort to further establish affordable housing for local residents, the Community Preservation Committee is looking to increase the local Community Preservation Act surcharge from 1% to 3%.

Janet Providakes, chairwoman of the Ayer CPC, said Oct. 8 that the committee will make its official recommendation at the Special Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 28. Although this increase would impact local residents’ annual property tax, the additional funds through the CPA program would allow the committee to fund more local projects vital to residents. Providakes specifically cited the committee’s desire to establish more affordable housing in town.

“We just did a Master Plan within the town and one of the things was trying to work more towards affordable housing,” she explained.

According to the committee’s draft presentation on their request, Ayer voted to adopt the CPA in 2001 and put the property tax bill surcharge into effect. The CPA was first passed into state law in 2000 as a means for local communities to preserve open space, protect historic sites, establish affordable housing and develop outdoor recreational facilities. The state provides funding that matches funds raised by towns through the surcharge.

CPA funds have done plenty of good for Ayer over the years. According to the draft presentation, the program has funded apartments at the former Pleasant Street School building, the creation of the Pine Meadow Pond Trail, the creation of the Ayer Community Garden and the renovations of the Sandy Pond School.

Providakes said the original surcharge in Ayer was 3% for the first two years before being reduced to 1% sometime around 2004.

Back in July of this year, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the state’s fiscal 2020 budget with an estimated $36 million increase in revenue for CPA communities each year. That increase is what motivated the committee to prepare its request.

“It’s the perfect time because now the state has more money,” Providakes said.

She went on to explain that the average assessed home value in 2019 is $332,600. With that figure in mind, the average homeowner pays $45 annually to the CPA fund. With the proposed increase, that same homeowner will pay $135 annually toward the CPA fund. Providakes added that low-income residents and low- to moderate-income seniors over the age of 60 can annually request a waiver through the Town Assessor to avoid the payment.

“Rent has gone sky-high in town,” she said. “There are many homeless but there are also people who can’t pay their bills so their houses may end up going into foreclosure. They’re having a difficult time because there are people who can’t continue living in the rent.”

Providakes said that if the request is accepted at the meeting this month, it will then have to be added to the Annual Ballot in the Spring.