In November, Somerville voters will decide whether or not to adopt the state's Community Preservation Act.
The Community Preservation Act, known as the CPA, is a tool cities and towns use to fund open space, historic preservation and affordable housing projects.
The Somerville Board of Aldermen voted Thursday to put an initiative about joining the CPA on November's ballot.
What is the Community Preservation Act?
Communities that adopt the CPA raise money through a surcharge on property taxes. The surcharge can be up to 3 percent of the real estate tax levy, but Somerville is proposing a surcharge of 1.5 percent.
As stated above, the money raised must be used for open space protection, historic preservation and affordable housing, and communities that join the program receive matching funds from the state for CPA projects.
About 148 cities and towns in Massachusetts have joined the CPA, including Belmont, Cambridge, Quincy, Waltham and Wellesley.
As an example, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, an advocate of the Community Preservation Act, Quincy has raised nearly $6 million from the surcharge and received about $3 million from the state.
Communities that join the CPA establish a community preservation committee that allocates at least 10 percent of the money raised to each of the three permitted categories—open space, historic preservation, affordable housing.
How much would it cost?
In presenting the Community Preservation Act ballot initiative to the Somerville Board of Aldermen Thursday, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said, "Fee, surcharge, tax: That can be a lightning-rod issue."
The mayor, who supports joining the CPA, said, "We're not a city of great resources" and, "We have so much more as a community that we want to achieve."
Marc Levye, Somerville's chief assessor, spoke Thursday about how much joining the CPA would cost average households.
- The average condo, valued at around $324,000, would pay around $17
- The average single-family home, valued around $405,000, would pay around $33
- The average two-family home, valued around $487,000, would pay about $49
- The average three-family home, valued around $550,000, would pay around $62
That's after the residential exemption is taken into account.
Levye told the aldermen he was still working out how much money the CPA surcharge would raise, but a ballpark figure—Levye emphasized it was a very rough figure—would be around $1 million to $1.2 million, he said.
How much money would Somerville get from the state?
The CPA was signed into law in 2000, and from 2002 to 2007, communities in the program received dollar-for-dollar matches from the state.
In 2010, the average state match was down to 31.5 percent of the local surcharge revenue, according to The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs's CPA website.
"This is a matter, ultimately, that will be decided by the voters," Curtatone said. The mayor added later, "I feel very excited by this opportunity."
"The long-term benefit will pay off," said Alderman At-Large John Connolly, who also supports the CPA.
It will be on the ballot on Nov. 6.