LETTER: Concerned Homeowners Group Opposes Proposed CPA

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We wanted to share with you the Concerned Watertown Homeowners Association position statement on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) initiative. Let’s all try and remember-this is a TAX. We have heard from many about door knocking campaigns to obtain the required signatures to put the question on the ballot in November. Please find our reasons for opposing the CPA Tax.

Reasons to Reject the Community Preservation Act (CPA):

1 – The School Committee reported that we are out of classroom space in our schools, and that means we have a high probability of having to raise taxes to meet that NEED. A new high school and sufficient space in our elementary schools is a much higher priority than the CPA TAX.

2 – It is irresponsible to tax for WANTS, when we do not have enough money to fund our NEEDS. Many of us are already challenged to pay for our family’s needs. WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER TAX!

3 – In 2005 Watertown Residents and Taxpayers were told the CPA tax would be matched at 100% by the State of Massachusetts which is no longer true. Now they are guessing available matching funds to be only 25%. However, with state tax revenues below forecasted collection amounts even that guess is questionable, at best.

4 – In 2005 we were told tenants would not be affected. That statement was untrue then, and is still untrue today. Tax escalation clauses are included in many leases, meaning those with leases get an automatic increase in their rents.

5 – The CPA tax commitment to Watertown Taxpayers is for a minimum of 5 years, and will be extended if loans are taken out. Therefore, the 5 year commitment is misleading. Once we sign up for the CPA TAX we are committed whether it works in or best interests or not. Consider how much matching funds have dropped in the last ten years. There are no guarantees of what the matching funds will be in the future.

6 – The Residents of Watertown said “NO” TO THE CPA TAX 10 years ago, but CPA proponents are back again trying to take your hard earned dollars for their WANTS

7 – The cost to live in Watertown is high enough, we do not need to increase it for homeowners and/or tenants.

8 – Open space, parks, and recreation areas should (and are) funded by our real estate taxes. It also begs the question, “What open space?”

9 – Raising property taxes makes housing even more unaffordable for many. Doesn’t this fly in the face of all the efforts we have made to improve affordable housing in Watertown? And how do our politicians who are proponents of affordable housing explain how raising taxes makes Watertown more affordable?

Stay tuned and thank you for your support!

John Labadini
President
CWHA

12 thoughts on “LETTER: Concerned Homeowners Group Opposes Proposed CPA

  1. As one of the people who has collected signatures and worked on getting the CPA in Watertown both in 2005 and 2016, I would like to respond to John Labadini.
    John Labadini’s dislike of taxes is so pervasive that he is seems unable to evaluate a tax on its own merits. Screaming “TAX” as opposition to the CPA in Watertown is not sufficient. He devalues amenities such a parks, recreational fields for youth and other organized groups, the upkeep and protection of cultural and historic assets unique to a community, and affordable housing as mere “WANTS”. Many of us consider these as community assets that contribute to our family’s engagement in the community, enhance our interactions with our neighbors and add to the quality of life as well as increasing the value of our property. Traditionally these assets have been funded by the towns –yes through taxes. Over the years, there has been an erosion of towns’ abilities to make these investments and the CPA was created as an alternate mechanism. Now over 160 towns in Massachusetts, including Waltham, Belmont, Arlington, Newton, and Cambridge, have already voted to participate. I urge residents to learn more about the CPA at https://investinwatertown.wordpress.com/ . The presentations highlight some of the many projects that could be possible under the CPA and the questions and answers ((https://investinwatertown.wordpress.com/homepage/cpa-in-watertown-extended-questions-and-answers/) give more details about the how the surcharge works. We believe the exemptions and structure of the surcharge protect many for whom the surcharge would be a burden and the multiple examples inspire confidence that passing the CPA will result in tangible benefits worthy of collective active and support.

  2. Many residents feel our current tax income and level of development is adequate to fund the initiatives covered under the CPA. Parks and fields have undergone extensive renovations in the last few years (Victory Field, Casey, Howe, Bemis, and now Fillapello) without the need for CPA funds. Our Town Council has increased affordable housing in the RMUD from 12.5% to 15%, thus increasing the number of affordable units, again without the need for the CPA. Therefore, I see little evidence that the CPA is a necessity to maintain our town’s functionality. What I find even more troubling is the Invest in Watertown’s group evasiveness about “matching funds”. Many ASSUME matching will be 100%. Is that reality? NO. In fact the state HAS NOT MATCHED 100% SINCE 2007. They argue a $1.7m increase in taxes “COULD” raise almost $2m in matching funds. In 2015 if we raised $1.7m in taxes the state would have only matched ONLY about $500k in funding (29.67%) the lowest rate ever. Invest in Watertown further does not mention that should Boston approve joining the CPA in November, that number is likely to drop significantly lower. The CPA is a great idea in theory, giving poor towns 100% matching funds to undertake projects they can’t afford. Unfortunately this is going the way of alot of many great ideas which turn into unfunded initiatives. Vote this down.

  3. Thank you Deb Petersen but I beg to differ and happy to discuss anytime. My “dislike” of taxes being “pervasive” is just not the case. I first and foremost don’t like the timing because the schools might suffer if the town has to go back to the well in a year for ANOTHER tax. You want a Tax override for our schools-Sign me up!! And, I will help get voters on board as well. The kids in Watertown are our most important investment. “If you think education is expensive try ignorance “(Ann Landers said that)

    I think I am trying to be reasonable. I don’t have any children but would vote for, and am on record as encouraging others voters at the top of my lungs to vote for, a tax override for our school when the time comes. I have said that many times and I said it last night at the steering committee meeting at WHS. We have money to pay for everything you mention from our taxes. I have reached out to many CPA proponents and I have it on record they want to get this on the ballot BEFORE the schools are figured out. Why is that? Why THIS year??? I will rather give DOUBLE whatever this CPA tax is to The Boys and Girls Club then have my money go to this and I’m far from alone in what many see as a very logical way of prioritizing. Let’s figure out what the schools are going to need and then see what the appetite is. That’s all. I’m not a hater of taxes. This is all about priorities.

    Why don’t all the CPA proponents get together and start a fund for the projects that are important to them? They exist in many places. There is one called “Friends of the Public Garden” in Boston that plants more flowers on top of what the city does. All privately funded too. .

    Deb-if you have read this far thank you! I can be reached at johnlabadini@yahoo.com too

    • John, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Fact is if these projects the CPA slush fund will be used for are so important, they ought to be line items in our annual budget. But the fact is they are not. They aren’t worthy of making budget. We have real needs that can’t be funded properly. Our roads are mess; many homeowners are clamoring for weekly recycling pick ups; many of our public buildings need capital improvement — and that’s before we start talking about needs of the schools. All of these things may require additional revenues. And while most taxpayers would agree with me: the taxes along with the water/sewer rates are already too burdensome; if we have legitimate need it may be necessary to raise taxes (if there is not other option).

      But this tax on a tax is to fund a wish-list. The CPA proponents are like a couple that registers a Neiman Marcus, after having invited people to their wedding who can barely shop at Ocean Job Lot.

      They are completely disconnected from the real world. They claim to be for the working women and men. They are to first to talk about a progressive tax system to fund a social safety net. Yet they are proposing a regressive tax on homeowners and tenants who pay taxes through their rent.

      It’s not that we hate taxes. Taxes are price we pay for civilized society… to quote Oliver Wendall Holmes. It’s that the CPA proponents have never met a tax they aren’t madly in love with.

      And to answer your question John, they don’t want to wait to see if we need an override for the schools to see if people are still willing to adopt the CPA for one reason only. They know it will be soundly rejected and they won’t get their slush fund.

      If these projects are so important, then they ought to work with the Town Manager and Council during the budgeting process and find a way to fund them in the budget. Or as you suggested find alternative means of funding. Do they want a bike new bike path, do they want upgrade a play ground… How about selling the naming rights to said project? There are plenty of creative ways of funding project if the will is there. But it’s easier to just get slush fund.

  4. In 2005, I Chaired the Committee that defeated the CPA by nearly 20% at the polls.
    That election was a municipal election and therefore got the proper scrutiny as this is a municipal question. This year the proponents of the Tax on a Tax…. that’s what a surtax is… have buried this question on a Presidential ballot, in hopes people won’t know it’s there, not understand it, and therefore the radical minority proposing it, will get their core members to vote for it, along with a generally poorly informed electorate.

    So let’s deal with the facts…. The CPA sets up a slush fund to be administered by an un-elected board or committee… Said Committee will be laden by representatives of various special interest groups. In other words more unaccountable shadow government, run by special interests, with hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to play with…. to promote pet projects… to give to connected contractors …. And these expenditures are all off budget, only needing a rubber stamp from Council.

    The most dangerous aspect of the CPA is that the Town can then take out bonds based on the projected income (much of which can’t be projected because of the Ponzi Scheme set up for the matching funds). Once the Town goes into debt or issues bonds for one of these unnecessary pet projects, the Town must retain the CPA Tax on a Tax until the debt is paid off. Of we can repeal the CPA after 5 years…. that would only preclude us from receiving whatever matching funds are available. But the Tax on a Tax remains until the debt is paid off…. What a deal !!! Folks it’s a trap and mine shaft!

    In 2005, the Committee to Defeat the CPA was outspent by thousands, mostly coming from our special interest groups outside Watertown. But commonsense prevailed, and not only was the CPA defeated, the radical leftist Town Councilors supporting it were defeated soundly as well. Perhaps that’s another reason they won’t place it on a municipal ballot. But we know who they are and we will make sure they are held responsible for trying to rape taxpayers again.

    The CPA was horrible deal in 2005… it’s even worse in 2016.

  5. Here is a new twist to this Ponzi Scheme….. Should Boston be so stupid as to adopt this dribble, then under the new rules, they get 50% of all available matching funds. Leaving the other hundreds of foolish communities, some of which signed on this Maadoff -like flimflam a decade ago, to split the half of the pie. So that wishful thinking 25% becomes 12.5%………

    But the proponents of the CPA won’t be telling the voters any of this. They were disingenuous in 2005, and even more so in 2016….

  6. Lets face the facts, the CPA is just another tax and it will make it even harder to afford to live in Watertown. That is all we need to know! Vote NO on the CPA!

  7. Thank you John Labadini for the excellent explanation of the CPA. Many people are concerned about this TAX and don’t understand that it will be forever. As stated, we already said NO to this once. Don’t be fooled again.

  8. Speaking of taxes, you all know that the last round of property taxes hit owners of two family houses especially hard. What I find hard to comprehend is that out of 61 properties that filed for a tax abatement, 55 properties had abatements approved. The
    AVERAGE abatement totaled $769.21, with a low of $316.01 and a high of $1588.25. I don’t know why that is, but it certainly makes me wonder if the formula(s) used were
    used correctly.

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