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August 2, 2022

WRRB: Community Preservation Act would improve Worcester’s livability

Photo | Grant Welker Worcester City Hall

In November, Worcester voters will have a chance to vote on the Community Preservation Act, which uses a 1.5% property tax surcharge to fund community projects beginning in fiscal 2024.

The funds would be used to acquire, create, and preserve open space, recreational spaces, and low-and moderate-income housing, as well as the acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of historical assets, according to a new report, “Preserving Worcester’s Past, Present, and Future?”  released Tuesday by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. 

The WRRB concludes the CPA is a good way to fund investments to improve livability in the city, and gives Worcester access to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund it has been paying into, but not benefitting from. 

The WRRB estimates in fiscal 2023 the total amount of surcharge raised in Worcester would be approximately $3.7 million.

The City of Worcester would have access to a percentage of matching funds offered by the state through the Community Preservation Trust Fund. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue projects that it will match about 35% of funds raised in FY22. 

To allocate funds, a community preservation committee would be created with five to nine members made up by law of members of the City’s Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Planning Board, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Housing Authority. Any remaining members would be appointed by the city manager.

The committee would advise the city manager on proposed projects, and the city manager would allocate funds in the city budget.

Residents and businesses would fund the projects through a 1.5% property tax surcharge, which is not levied on the property directly, but on the tax paid. 

There are three groups exempted from the surcharge in the bill. Homeowners making less than 80% of area median income and senior homeowners making less than full AMI would be exempt.The first $100,000 of residential property value taxed would be exempt. And the first $100,000 of value for commercial and industrial property would be exempt.

According to the WRRB, the 1.5% surcharge on the median residential property in Worcester would be $43.46, while the surcharge on the median commercial and industrial property would be $174.23. Averages are higher for apartment buildings and commercial and industrial properties as larger, more valuable properties bring the average up.

The organization calls attention to the fact that there is no requirement that the money be spent in the same timeframe that it is raised, and that the funds will not cover the entirety of many projects, but will need to be part of a larger funding package. 

The WRRB offers an online calculator to find out what your surcharge would be as well as more information about their findings on the CPA on its website.

The WRRB is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1985, dedicated to conducting independent, non-partisan research and analysis of public policy issues to promote good governance and informed public debate and decision-making, according to the organization’s website.

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