Opposing Sides Put Community Preservation Committee on Hold

By Beth Treffeisen

More work has yet to be done to make the Community Preservation Committee (CPA), that will designate the funds put forth by the Community Preservation Act (CPA), a reality.

After back and forth between the advocates Yes for a Better Boston and business groups, Boston City Council members believe there needs to be more time to come to an agreement.

“We understand it won’t be perfect and not everyone is going to be happy,” said At-large Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty. “But the CPA proceeds will bring in real dollars to solve real issues in our City.”

The CPA will allow the City to generate funds by a small surcharge on local property tax bills that are then maximized when matched by a statewide trust fund. The funds are expected to generate up to $20 million per year.

The funds will go towards affordable housing, historic preservation, community preservation, open space and recreation.

“Boston is the biggest municipality the CPA.  This means that other cities and towns in the state who have CPA are not happy because they didn’t want Boston to tap into it because it means less money for them.” said Flaherty.

The voters of the City of Boston approved the adoption of the CPA this past November 8, 2016 on the ballot.

The CPA ordinance will define the committee’s composition, length of member terms, how the four “at large” positions will be appointed and outlines the committee’s responsibilities.

The Committee, once it is formed, will be responsible for evaluating the community preservation needs of the City and will make recommendations for expenditures from the CPA fund.

The tax collection begins on July 1, 2017. A typical homeowner will pay about $24 per year towards this investment.

Flaherty has been supporting the adoption of the CPA since it first came up for discussion about ten years ago. He was happy that this time the business community did fund an effort against it like they have in years past.

“This time the business group played nice in the sandbox,” said Flaherty. “There was a unified front in support with both the Mayor and the Boston City Council.”

The CPC will consist of nine members. Mayor Martin Walsh will appoint five of the members that most likely will be from the administration such as the Parks Department, Housing Development and Landmarks, and the Boston City Council will appoint the other four members.

The Boston City Council hopes to fulfill the diversity aspect in the four positions that they pick to ensure voices are heard from all of the Boston neighborhoods.

The members, according to the ordinance now, will be appointed for terms of three years and must be residents of Boston.

Once the Committee is formed, they will be expected to hold informational public hearings throughout the communities and report back to the Boston City Council.

Flaherty said that on one side, the business community wants to have a seat on the Committee because they will be the ones contributing the most to the funds, especially those with large warehouses.

On the other side, the advocates, Yes for a Better Boston (YBB) worked tirelessly to make the CPA a reality and would also like a seat on the Committee.

Since the passage of the CPA, YBB has worked to ensure credibility and transparency throughout the grant making process and wants to make sure that the grants meet the needs of those in underserved neighborhoods.

Another divide, Flaherty said is some advocates want to have the administrative side housed in an independent office outside City Hall. While others, including Flaherty have voiced to have it within in City Hall to make it easier when communication is needed during budget season.

In addition, the CPA puts away about a little over $100,000 dedicated to administrative personnel that will work on sorting through applications for both to sit on the CDC board and also to tap into the CPA funds. The job application is already available online.

“There are going to be hundreds of applicants to sit on the CDC board and hundreds of applications for projects that want funding,” said Flaherty. “Every Little League team, Pop Warner team, friends of the garden groups will be requesting funds. There is going to be a heavy volume right out of the gate for requests for funds.”

There have been two working sessions to discuss this topic. There is no deadline for the Boston City Council to make a vote.

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