By Seth Daniel
Lost in the turmoil of the November election was the overwhelming ‘yes’ vote for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Chelsea, and now City leaders have set an accelerated schedule to get the new program up and running by next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
That means collections for the CPA on tax bills will be doubled this year and will start with the January bill.
Right now, City Manager Tom Ambrosino and City Treasurer Bob Boulrice have been collaborating on the implementation and getting a pamphlet ready for inclusion in the tax bills, which will go out in January.
“That said, the first step is we need an ordinance that the Council will adopt to establish how we set up the committee for the CPA,” he said. “That committee will make awards decisions.”
The ordinance is expected to be submitted and passed by the Council this month.
Right off the bat, residents can expect to have double the collections on their January and April tax bills. The CPA in Chelsea collects 1.5 percent of the amount of the tax bill from all taxpayers who are not exempt. So, if the tax bill is $2,000, the fee would be $30. The state CPA allows up to 3 percent to be taken, but Chelsea voted only to take 1.5 percent.
After passage, the City decided to be aggressive and implement the CPA in quick order. That meant collections had to double.
“It was a priority we wanted to accomplish,” said Ambrosino. “We have a lot of needs in the community and we wanted to get started on this as soon as possible. There are some communities that passed it and waited to implement it. We didn’t choose to do that. It is aggressive, but we can do it.”
Added Boulrice, “For the taxpayer, that means the third and fourth quarter tax bills this year in January and April will collect for all four quarters of this fiscal year. In fiscal year 2018, the CPA collection amount will be back to normal and spread over four quarters, rather than two.”
Of the money collected by the City, the state currently matches 29 percent of it. Ambrosino and Boulrice noted that is down from what is called for in the state law. They said they hope that with Boston and other communities approving the CPA, those funding percentages could return to normal.
The decisions on where the money goes will be left up to a new committee, which the Council must approve in the upcoming ordinance this month.
The Committee, as proposed, will have nine members.
Of those, by law, five have to be from each of the following agencies: Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Historical Commission, Chelsea Housing Authority, and the Recreation/Open Space Department.
The remaining four seats will be appointed by the City Council and residents can self-nominate or be nominated for those seats.
“My expectation is they will first meeting in the summer and determine how best to spend this year’s funds,” said Boulrice. “Some time in the fall, the state matching money will come in. When that all gets in the pot, the Committee will have some work to do in making decisions.”
Within those decisions, however, the CPA Committee has to allocate 10 percent each to Historic Preservation, Affordable Housing and Open Space. The remaining 70 percent can be allocated to those categories in any way decided.
All award recommendations do have to be approved by the City Council in a majority vote.
Both said they were excited to see that the CPA passed here.
“It’s already significant because it’s an opportunity for projects to filter up from the community and to augment the annual capital improvement program,” said Boulrice. “Citizens can supplement and approve some projects. That’s an exciting thing.”
Said Ambrosino, “It was a great reflection of civic pride.”
Of particular note is that some taxpayers are exempt from the CPA collections.
There are two categories of taxpayers that are exempt, and they can fill out forms to opt out of the collection. The categories are moderate income senior citizens and low income non-senior citizens.