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The CPA was signed into law as MGL Chapter 44B in September 2000. It allows towns to create a Community Preservation Fund for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation. The CPA also creates a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund (“Trust Fund”), administered by the Department of Revenue (DOR), which provides matching distributions each year to communities that have adopted CPA. The statute gives towns the right to place a surcharge on local property taxes of not more than 3% of the local real estate tax levy on each property, and to exempt the first $100,000 of the property value from the surcharge.
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Each year, the Town must spend, or set aside for later spending, 10% of the annual revenue to a fund designated for open space protection (including expanded use for outdoor recreation since 2012), 10% to a fund designated for historic preservation, 10% to a fund designated for affordable housing, and the remaining 70% to an Undesignated Fund that can be used for any of the allowed purposes under the CPA. Up to 5% of the revenue may also be appropriated for administrative expenses.
Working with the Town Treasurer, the CPC confirms and then announces the fund balances annually late in the calendar year in a call for applications. Applicants may be Town entities (including boards and commissions) non-profits, individuals, or even commercial entities (the latter three groups will ideally have the support of a Town board but need not necessarily be Carlisle-based). Applications are generally due in January.
After reviewing the applications within the committee and, as appropriate, with Town Counsel to confirm eligibility or other parameters, the CPC meets with applicants to discuss their applications, often requesting revisions to the scope of the project or the amount requested, refinements, or additional information. Based on its assessment of each application relative to available funds, competing applications, and the criteria established by the CPA, the CPC then votes whether or not to recommend at Town Meeting which project(s) should be funded with CPA monies.
For each project expected to receive a positive CPC recommendation, the CPC works with Town Counsel and the applicant to create a Grant Agreement which establishes the clear parameters of the appropriation including allowed use(s), the term for which the funds are available (including possible claw-back dates at which time any unspent funds must be returned to the fund from which they were appropriated), reporting requirements, public notice including signage as appropriate that the project is funded in whole or in part through the CPA, and any other requirements or restrictions.