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CPA Updates: Acton Ruling & Latest Trust Fund Matches

There has been a lot going on in the world of the Community Preservation Act lately. From a ruling in the Caplan v. Town of Acton suit to the Department of Revenue releasing an estimate for the CPA Trust Fund match, there is a lot of news! So here are some quick yet very important catch ups.

Caplan vs. Town of Acton - Update

A 10-tax payer lawsuit filed in Acton in 2016 challenged the use of CPA funds on an historic church (that included religious imagery) as a violation of the Massachusetts' Constitutions anti-aid provision. The lawsuit progressed through the court system up to the State Supreme Court. Preservation Massachusetts along with many of our preservation partners including Historic New England, Boston Preservation Alliance, Historic Boston, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Community Preservation Coalition and the Attorney General's Office submitted amicas briefs in support of using CPA funds on religious properties. The funds were directed to preservation and restoration work on the building, and not in direct support of the religious organization.

The court thought differently. Last month a "splintered" court ruling came down from the Supreme Court that favored the 10-taxpayer plantiffs, and sort of muddied the waters for religious organizations seeking public preservation funds for work on their historic buildings.

At our most recent Massachusetts Preservation Coalition meeting, we were joined by attorney M. Patrick Moor from Hemenway and Barnes, LLP, who helped draft one of the amicas briefs. He created a great 2 page summary of the ruling and it's impact going forward. The only thing that is for sure is that nothing is totally clear and a lot remains to be seen as the case is now appealed back to Superior Court.

Is your head spinning yet? We will keep you posted on this as we hear new developments and impacts on other important programs like the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund that have granted funds to historic religious buildings.

DOR's CPA Match Estimate

DOR released their estimate for the 2018 trust fund distribution: a record low 11.5%. Here is the actual update:

The Department of Revenue has issued its annual budget memo to municipalities and it includes an estimate of 11.5% for the November 2018 first round CPA Trust Fund distribution. As in the past, this is the figure that all communities with a local surcharge of less than 3% should use when finalizing their FY19 CPA budget this spring. Cities and towns that adopted a surcharge of 3% will receive additional funding in rounds two and three; consult with your DOR field representative for assistance with estimating your FY19 CPA budget. Here is the text on the CPA portion of the memo:

During FY2018, 172 cities and towns collected the local Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge and are eligible for state matching grants in FY2019. DLS estimates that the balance in the state trust fund will be sufficient to provide a first round match of 11.5% of the surcharge levied by each city and town.

In FY2019, there will be equity and surplus distributions for those cities and towns that have adopted the maximum 3% surcharge. With these additional distributions, the total state reimbursement for qualifying cities and towns will increase, depending on their decile and total surcharge amount. The above estimates are subject to change depending on Registry of Deeds collections between now and October.

CPA is a hugely important and critical resource for preservation, affordable housing and conservation/recreation. With more communities adopting the legislation, it is critical that we have a more robust state match.

What can you do?

Support H.3662!

The time for the legislature to act on the pending CPA Legislation, H.3662, is now. "An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue" would adjust the recording fees at the Registries of Deeds to provide a higher match to all 172 CPA communities.

The Community Preservation Coalition, on which Preservation Massachusetts sits, has been active in meeting with the legislature to secure co-sponsors for the bill and impressing upon them the urgency of the CPA trust fund match.

Contact your State Representatives and State Senators and ask them to support H.3662. PM will continue to provide updates from the CPC and other important news about this program and its impact statewide.

To read the full CPC email click here.

For more information about CPA click here.

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