City councilor pushes for vote on CPA

6/1/2017 | Chris Miracle

Category: June 2017

The Community Preservation Act, adopted by the Town of Agawam in 2001, will be on the agenda of the next council meeting on June 19, presented as a resolution as a non-binding vote to provide an opportunity to see how the town feels if the CPA should continue to be in effect moving forward.

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a tool to help communities preserve open space and historic sites, and create affordable housing and recreational facilities.

According to City Councilor George Bitzas, the city council would need to vote to revoke the CPA in order to bring the act to a binding vote for the town. Bitzas supports the CPA, but believes the voters should get a say on the matter.

“The decision should be brought before the people. In this democratic society, we get elected by the people, so we should listen to the people,” Bitzas said.

If the full council rejects the resolution, nothing would change. If the board approves the resolution, then the issue would be put to a token vote in November to get a read on the town opinion about the CPA.

Since 2001, new projects in Agawam that have been funded by the CPA include the School Street Park, the Thomas Smith House restoration, the Borgatti Field concession renovation and the Old Fire Museum.

“We have accomplished so much with the CPA, but others say we don’t have much more to do with it so why continue,” Bitzas said. “I hope the council finds no reason to allow it to be discontinued, but there is no excuse to deny the people to vote and let the people speak.”

According to Bitzas, currently the CPA fund total budget is at $2,234,244.99, and the next payment from the state will increase the total fund to $2,764,244.99.

If voters repealed the surcharge, the committee would remain in place to manage the fund balance.

In 2011, a petition to end the CPA funding was led by Feeding Hills resident Billy Chester, who collected 2200 signatures to put the motion on the town ballot. According to Bitzas, the petition was denied by the city solicitor, who ruled the petition invalid due to some technicalities.

The Community Preservation Act adds a 1 percent surcharge to tax bills specifically for open space, affordable housing and preservation projects. According to Bitzas, with more towns and cities in the state using the CPA, the Agawam ratio last year was 18 cents to the dollar with the surcharge.

The CPA provides new funding sources which can be used to address three core community concerns: acquisition and preservation of open space, creation and support of affordable housing, acquisition and preservation of historic buildings and landscapes.

A minimum of 10 percent of the annual revenues of the fund must be used for each of the three core community concerns, and up to 5 percent may be used for administrative expenses of the Community Preservation Committee. The remaining funds can be allocated for any combination of the allowed uses, or for land for recreational use. This gives each community the opportunity to determine its priorities, plan for its future, and have the funds to make those plans happen.
Property taxes traditionally fund the day-to-day operating needs of safety, health, schools, roads, maintenance.  

But until the CPA, there was no steady funding source for preserving and improving a community's quality of life and character.

The Community Preservation Act can give a community the funds needed to control its future.

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