By Seth Daniel
As momentum begins to gain ground for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Boston, Charlestown State Rep. Dan Ryan is apt to hold off on the runaway enthusiasm for what is essentially a property tax increase.
Ryan said he is still educating himself on Boston’s proposal, but doesn’t see it as a solution, but rather an effort that is more style than substance.
“I’m still trying to educate myself on Boston’s adoption of the Community Preservation Act, but at first glance, I’m really going to have to be convinced that this is the right time, place and method to be raising taxes on Boston homeowners,” he said. “You can’t build the New Boston on the backs of the folks who are barely surviving to stay in this city. Sure, you can tell me that 1 percent only averages out to this or that per person household. But, not in the one ward of the city that I represent. Charlestown homeowners will be on the higher end of that average, my guess is it maybe double. And we will benefit the least because many of the opportunities that the CPA creates are already gone in Charlestown.”
Ryan is countering what has been a swell of support in the world of officialdom. Already, Mayor Martin Walsh has come out in support of the CPA and so has Councilor Sal LaMattina.
Ryan said he isn’t looking to pick a fight, but isn’t convinced the voters are going to go for something that will initiate more taxes. He points to the sound defeat of the gas tax increase in last November’s election via ballot question.
Enacted in 2000, the CPA statute allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Community preservation funds are raised locally, through a surcharge of the tax levy against real property of up to three percent.
In Boston, a 1 percent surcharge to property taxes has been proposed and an official proposal from Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michael Flaherty now sits before the City Council for a vote. A public hearing on the CPA took place in March. If the Council approves the proposal, it would then move to the November ballot for the people to vote upon.
The funds from CPA would provide support affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space initiatives.
New City revenue from the surcharge is estimated to be $16.5 million annually, and is expected to leverage millions more in state funding every year. The average homeowner would pay an additional $28 per year, it is estimated.
“In a very general sense I support the goals of the Community Preservation Act,” he said. “However, the timing of this particular tax increase is more about the general message of tax fairness and predictability. With these two factors in mind my questions become ‘How does allowing the City to raise taxes for this very specific program fit in the larger vision for Boston? Are we going to continue to give tax breaks to the largest corporations in the world? Are we going to enforce the current laws on the books that mandate open space, affordability and preservation?’”
Ryan said he believes that the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and other City agencies are heading in the right direction, but he said it’s too soon to trust them entirely with more tax dollars for development.
“I also believe it is too soon to trust that an infusion of more hard earned cash of Charlestown homeowners into the development world will be used correctly,” he said.