The CPA and CPC: what are they and how do they support Bedford? 

Submitted by the Community Preservation Committee of Bedford 

(Note: This is the first of a three-part series)

Part 1: The Primer on Community Preservation

Bedford isn’t often the first to jump on an idea, but we know a good deal when we see it.

2002: Bedford becomes the first community in the Commonwealth to pass the Community Preservation Act (CPA). 

What is the CPA?

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. 

Over a decade of work went into the creation of the CPA, signed into law by Governor Paul Cellucci and Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift on Sept. 14, 2000. Since Bedford in 2002, 194 municipalities in Massachusetts have adopted CPA.

Each CPA community creates a local Community Preservation Committee (CPC) upon adoption of the Act, and this Committee makes recommendations on CPA projects to the community’s legislative body. (Bedford has a nine-member CPC board.) 

The CPC is appointed to help steward these funds in Bedford for community enrichment and preservation and to help those interested in a community project determine its fitness for CPA funding.

How is the program funded? 

The program is funded by a surcharge on residential property taxes. Funds raised through this surcharge are pooled together and then matched by the state. Bedford’s voted surcharge rate* (3 percent of a resident’s net real estate tax bill) allows the town to get the largest match possible from the state.  

When this town was one of the first communities to pass CPA, Bedford’s match was about 100 percent. In later years, the match was smaller as more communities were taking part, but last year the match was more than 43 percent – a very robust return on investment. This meant that state-matched funds of $830,000 were added to Bedford’s CPA bucket for community enhancements. 

What is the CPA surcharge and how is it shown on the tax Bill? 

Example: 

1. Your property is valued $500,000. Bedford’s 2023 tax rate is $12.48 per $1,000. 

Your real estate tax is: 500 x $12.48 = $6,240.

2. The three percent CPA surcharge is based upon your net real estate taxes (after a $100,000 property value exemption). 

Property assessment minus exemption: $500,000 – $100,000 = $400,000 property value for CPA. 400 x $12.48 = $4,992 net RE taxes for CPA surcharge calculation.

Your CPA surcharge is: 3 percent x $4,992 = $149.76 CPA surcharge on your RE tax bill.

Property taxes traditionally fund the day-to-day operating needs of safety, health, schools, roads, maintenance, and more. Until the CPA was enacted, there was no steady funding source for preserving and improving a community’s character and quality of life. The Community Preservation Act gives a community the funds needed to control its future.

“Paying the annual CPA surcharge of around $275 for our average-sized home each year has allowed Bedford to benefit from meaningful projects we never could have otherwise built on our own. It feels like money very well spent,” says Lee Vorderer, Chair of the CPC since 2022.

The money must be used among projects having to do with open space, affordable housing, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation. At least 10 percent of the money must be spent on open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation projects (or put into reserve for those types of future projects), and the balance is spent per the determination of the Community Preservation Committee.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series, “CPA funds in Bedford, where did they go?”

(*Surcharge rate exemptions from the CPA are available for limited income households.)

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