The Community Preservation Act (the “CPA”, MGL 44B) allows any city or town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to adopt a property tax surcharge with revenues from this surcharge (and state matching funds) to be devoted to open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational use. Essex approved the CPA at the Annual Town Meeting on May 14, 2007 and at the Town Election on May 14, 2007. The surcharge went into effect with the start of the Fiscal Year 2008, on July 1, 2007.
Consistent with the terms of the CPA and with a bylaw adopted on October 6, 2008, a Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has been formed to study and recommend how Essex’s CPA revenues should be spent. The committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, includes representatives from the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Planning Board, the Department of Public Works Board of Commissioners, the Housing Authority, and two at-large members appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
Money to support the CPA in Essex comes from two sources. One source is a surcharge of .05% on local property taxes. The first $100,000 in value of any property is exempt from the surcharge, and low income or low-moderate income seniors are also exempt. The second source is state matching funds collected from a $20.00 fee on real estate transactions. The amount of matching funds will depend in part on the number of communities that adopt the Act. Funds collected under the CPA can only be invested in certain community preservation projects for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational use as recommended by the CPC and a majority vote at Town Meeting. In addition, 10% of the funds received in any fiscal year must be allocated for each of the first three areas (open space, historic preservation, and affordable
housing). The remaining 70% of each year's funds can be spent in any of the four areas as determined by Essex. Community Preservation Funds cannot be used for general maintenance or used to supplant funds being used for existing community preservation purposes. In addition, up to 5% of the annual Community Preservation revenues can be spent on administrative and operating expenses of the CPC.
The CPC is charged with studying the needs, possibilities, and resources of the town regarding community preservation. Community preservation in Essex is a public process, and the CPC strongly encourages broad participation from all residents. The CPC will make recommendations to Town Meeting for any use of the Community Preservation Funds. Funds cannot be expended without Town Meeting approval, except for Administrative Funds where there is a cap of $10,000 on any one item.