LETTER: CPA Does Not Fund Special Interests, It Brings More Money to the Town


Would you pay $1 for $1.27?

Opponents decry the reduction of the CPA match to an all-time low of 27%. I’d go with 27% interest on my money any day. Guys, since we voted down the CPA in 2005 we’ve left an estimated $15 million on the table. It breaks my heart.

In 2005, the dystopian fantasies of the CPA-opponents were couched in personal attacks and purple prose. Wild accusations of “special interests” are starting to be thrown around again today. Soccer fields are a “special interest”? I’d like to know who profits. Valuing our history is a “special interest”? Who does profit from razing historic structures and replacing them with expensive new construction, I wonder? Certainly not the preservationists. I am incredulous, moreover, at the offense taken because CPA supporters “haven’t even said” how the money will be used. Are you kidding? The “Community” in the Community Preservation Act” means that the voters agree to share the costs of making improvements and they get to decide together how best to use the funds. The “Neiman Marcus of pork-belly spending?” Give me a break!

Time and again, people say that what they value about Watertown is diversity — cultural, ethnic, and economic diversity. Ask renters of modest income how they feel about the cost of rentals in Watertown — not so good. Ask young adults in small apartments if they’d like to stay and raise a family here. They are quite likely to tell you they would, if only they could afford it. If they love Watertown, let’s make it easier for them to put down roots.

Pitting schools against the CPA is a false dichotomy. We have no idea what kinds of repairs/renovations/new buildings will ultimately make sense or what it will cost or when it will begin. We will certainly not be tearing down and constructing five school buildings at one time. When we have a plan, we will figure out how to fund it and we will do the right thing for the schoolchildren in Watertown. I can’t see the sense of turning down 27 cents on the dollar because of unknown expense at an undetermined point in the future.

Some are arguing that “taxes are expected to go up by 5-8% this year” and taxpayers can’t handle another increase on top of that. This distorts facts. Yes, if we take all the tax of all the properties together, that giant sum will go up — because of all the fancy new building. It does NOT mean that the tax on your home will go up by anything like that amount and it may not go up at all. Look at the development around you. THOSE NEW BUILDINGS will supply the increase in our tax revenue. Furthermore, THERE IS NO TAX DEFICIT as some claim. The cited “shortfall” is a placeholder, an annual exercise in projecting how much money we will need in the fiscal year beginning the following July and how we will get it. This calculation is the FIRST step toward what will eventually become a balanced budget. This is sound financial planning. WE ARE DOING FINE.

CPA funds offer an opportunity to build community and enhance our town. I hope you will join me in supporting this effort to preserve and improve what we love about Watertown. We missed an opportunity 11 years ago. Let’s not let it happen again.


Susan Falkoff
Councilor-at- Large

34 thoughts on “LETTER: CPA Does Not Fund Special Interests, It Brings More Money to the Town

  1. Well I’ll give you points for showing signs of life Susan….. I’ll address the details later. We’ll have to start a simple explanation of the English language.

    • This is a perfect example of the rotten nature of the debate on this issue. Mr. DiMascio’s snotty posts are written to denigrate and demean good citizens of our town. I believe that they also distort the facts. John, can’t you make a point without putting people down? The tone of this debate has been embarrassing to Watertown.

  2. You go girl is correct. But, please tell EVERYONE exactly where you’re headed. You’re “Going” right right into the homes, and wallets, of thousand of renters who have been sold a bill of goods that this won’t effect them. Attention rental community; heard of clauses in leases that allow this to be passed on to you” Of course you haven’t. That’s because “trained” “door knockers” are telling them, nope, this wont effect you, the landlord pays! Untrue then untrue now. This first dollar to get the 27 cents starts by walking right into everyone home and asking them to pay AN ADDITIONAL 2% TAX on top of the 6-9 % TAX INCREASES Announced last night. With a looming school crises and vote for funding that around the corner. Lastly, why do these folks, when saying how many places have this TAX on a TAX, ignore the 190 plus places wise enough to not have it as well as liberal, progressive Brookline, which had the wisdom to vote this down 57% to 43%. Why? Because it came on the heels of……A looming school override vote. Sound familair? Let’s follow the Town of Brookline’s wisdom in this case John Labadini
    Main Street, Watertown

    • John, this is an example of what Susan referred to as “purple prose”. I reiterate: The tone of this debate is embarrassing to the town of Watertown.

      If you are making an accusations that people are misleading others, you must offer proof. Otherwise, it is slander. Please consider what you are saying.

      • Mr Levendusky, Slander? If anyone is being slandered it’s me and CWHA. “Reflexive Anti Taxers” (we have been around all of 10 months) “Skulduggery” “Snookered” By CWHA. And that’s just what can be printed here. To answer you on “proof ” I can offer this exapmple from an email from TC Palomba; “We have all the materials – flyer, script/instructions, clipboard, etc. “If this will be your first time speaking to voters about the Community Preservation Act, please plan on spending some time reading through the material before you begin knocking on doors. I will also be available to offer a bit of training.”

        I have no issue with the above, per say. What many take exception to is what the say when they get to the door-“this is a tax on landlords not renters” Tony knows that’s not the case-Would you like to see the clip of him on Cable access claiming he is “unaware of any school override” That it’s “5-10 years down the road.” He has said these same things directly to me as well. Which is it? Are you “unaware”, or when pressed offer up a feeble, well it’s probably “5-1 0 years down the road”?When you know that’s not the case?

        I have successfully competed on the business field of battle most of my life. I could enjoy great short term success if I bent the facts to get business. What I would’t have is my credibility and long term customers. This CPA Tax has flaws, like everything else in life. The voters aren’t getting the truth. The Pro CPA folks should be able to defend why they like this Tax, warts and all.
        It’s interesting why CWHA is asked to defend itself for simply trying to keep more money in peoples pockets? Perhaps Proponents aren’t used to being challenged or asked to account for the money they are asking for, and tell the whole truth while going about their business? Welcome to the real world. I have to do it every day. They should too. I stand by what I said. John

      • Yes the tone is not very good! I was called a terrible person while at the Faire On The Square for not supporting the CPA. I replied that we have different thoughts but we do not have to call each other names and was told again that I was a terrible person. I let it drop and just walked away from the idiot. Do I not have the right to my own opinion? This may be a dirty fight but it on a two way street.

        • John , John and John–I stand by what I said before. The tone of this debate is making Watertown look stupid. It has the feel of a playground argument–not a reasoned debate. Yikes. Is this indicative of the town I chose to live in? You guys may think that you are arguing fairly, but the more you say, the more I doubt what you say. You are, in fact, pushing me over to the other side.

          • Sorry to hear that sir. When one is attacked it’s human nature to feel threatened. I was raised to be a gentleman. I can say without hesitation at no time in my 53 years has that ever been more tested as it has with some of the slings and arrows that have been launched at me and my friends. Why is that? I didn’t all of a sudden grow thin skinned. On the contrary. I think if Ii’ guilty of anything its been taking the bait from a few professorial agitators and bomb tossers to often when goaded. Have I written some things I wish I had written differently? Absolutely. That make me guilty of being a human being, with emotions and passions. I will probably get burned in effigy once again for saying this but, I choose schools, first and foremost. I believe in my heart of hearts, and as a graduate of WHS, who is hearing from families with their 1st and 5th generations in the same buildings, that if this cost the school override one vote, it’s one to many. Moreover, what has gotten me so upset out here (and sarcastic) is when I see people trying to deny that dynamic exists. How do they go about that? The only way they know how, because they don’t have the facts on their side. So, they personally attack me, and accuse CWHA, and the 1000’s of people who follow us of fear mongering. The School situation cannot be denied. You’re asking parents to gamble with their children’s future. I will never be for anything that would jeopardize that future. I hope you will consider that when you vote too.

  3. Thank you, Susan, for a clear and well-documented explanation of how CPA funds will offer many advantages for Watertown and none of the unfair fiscal burden opponents claim. Everyone agrees that additional classroom space is an immediate priority, this is not an either/or choice. The future of our schools and our community can be doubly enhanced by both new classroom space and the benefits that CPA funds will make available with no financial downside.

    • The CPA will add an additional 2% tax on real estate. And you say no financial downside. Possible we think differently but from my perspective a 2% tax on top of what my last tax increase was is a DOWNSIDE.

  4. This is a very cogent and useful presentation of the facts without resorting to vilifying anyone. It clears up a lot of the issues for me. Thank you Susan.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more, Susan! Thank you for cutting through the distortions and downright lies that are being spread about the CPA. All of the new building in Watertown has the benefit of bringing in new tax revenue, which will help fund school improvements . . . but it has the cost of shrinking our already-limited green space and shutting out moderate-income families who can no longer afford to live here. These are urgent problems — and the CPA is specifically designed to bring in state money to help us solve them. Let’s not allow “anti-tax” hysteria to rob our town of the funds that are ours by right. What could we have done with the 15 million dollars that we were foolish enough to reject eleven years ago?

    • Your killing me with statements like “All of the new building in Watertown has the benefit of bringing in new tax revenue, which will help fund school improvements” We have been expanding our housing stock for a few years now and I have to wonder where that new revenue you talk about went. My real estate taxes recently went up around 14% and will go up again next year (not much money went to help rebuild the schools that I know of). So, where is that new revenue? If it was there I wonder why my taxes went up as high as they did.

  6. Distortions and lies? Seems fact based conversations are frowned upon. To wit;Would you pay $1 for $1.27? ( This one sleighs me)
    – We as taxpayers are not paying $1 to get $1.27 back in our own pockets. We do’t get back anything-We have 1 less dollar in our pocket. Reconcile that for me please councilor? Fact is, we are paying $1 to let someone else spend $1.27 on something that we may or may not agree with.
    Opponents decry the reduction of the CPA match to an all-time low of 27%. I’d go with 27% interest on my money any day. Neighbors- since we voted down the CPA in 2005 we’ve left an estimated $15 million on the table. It breaks my heart.
    – Same argument as above. We aren’t getting the money back, the town is.
    – No, we haven’t left $15M on the table. Watertown has paid approximately $1M into the trust fund since 2005. If you purchased, or sold a home you paid a registrar fee. If you didn’t by or sell a home. This hasn’t cost you anything. Fuzzy math again. In order to get that $1M back, we would have had to tax our neighbors to the tune of $15M. Sure we would have received approximately $7M (the original $1M plus $6M), but we would have spent $14M additional dollars to receive that. Still sound like a great idea?

    “Give me a break’ You say? Give us a break. Our taxes are already going up and a school override on top of it. Death by 1000 tax increase, but, “it’s just a latte”
    – What soccer field is being proposed? Turning Walker Pond into a soccer field? How much will it cost to purchase the property? (and decrease the tax revenue) How much will it cost to then decontaminate the site and turn it into a soccer field? Walker Pond is landlocked, how do you propose people access the “new soccer field”? How much will it cost to buy a “right of way”? and then provide parking?
    – Who is razing historic structures and replacing them with expensive new construction? Give me an example. Not one. Those have ALL been private real estate transactions.
    – You are incredulous? Really? How about you give me a check for $2M every year in perpetuity and I’ll let you know what I am going to spend it on later.
    – The “Community” in Community Preservation Act means that the voters decide together how to best use the funds? Really? How about 5-9 appointed officials get to decide? And then the Town Council gets to vote on what is brought forward by those appointed officials. How about the fact that 5 of the current 9 Town Councilors are already in favor of the CPA? I’m sure they will be objective when voting on these proposals.

    Speaking of rentals sand diversity;Yeah, how about the cost of rentals? Increasing the taxes on landlords will result in those renters you care so much having rents raised the and making thousands of units in Watertown even more unaffordable, the next day, if this is passed.

    Your going to “give them roots’ Through affordable housing paid for by CPA.5 funds? If the CPA generates approximately $2M in revenue. The maximum amount that could be set aside for affordable housing is 1.5 milion The average 2-family and assessment in Watertown in 2017 is projected to be $615,253. So, what, you could buy maybe one or two 2-family residences at a premium and fix them up? You gained 2-4 apartments…hmmmm…doesn’t seem like much of a dent to me. Watertown becomes a landlord? Please explain to us uneducated masses how this works? Belmont has had the CPA for 6 years and has only managed about 3% affordable housing. Watertown is already at 6.5%, and we just raised the inclusionary zoning from 12.5% to 15%. The 2 newest buildings, with 300 units. BOOM-60 new affordable housing units too.Seems like Watertown is doing pretty well when it comes to affordable housing.

    Pitting schools against the CPA is a false dichotomy.
    – Perhpas if you attended a SC meeting or Master Plan Steering Committee meeting you would be better informed.
    – The draft Master Plan has been released and there are definitely options with associated costs.
    – Options will be chosen and funds identified in the next 2 years.
    – This is not some 5- to 10-year unknown future expense.
    – What will you say when Watertown voters are fed up with the tax increases and higher rents and reject the school override?
    – What are you going to say to the students in the Cunniff having two classes smashed into a single classroom? Oops, sorry? We needed to refurbish the mural in town hall? We put tombstones before students?
    Taxes-I would lie to ask-what distortion of facts are you referring too?
    -Distortion of facts? Its basic math. If taxes are going to increase approximately 6% for the average residential homeowner and you add a 2% CPA tax surcharge on top of that, the average taxes will go up 8%. It is an average, which means some people will pay a little less and some will pay more.

    Call me first when the school vote is ready. I’ve never looked forward to a tax in my life until I heard about an override for the schools!

    John Labadini

  7. Great article Susan. It helps to know that you are looking out for us homeowners in helping to renovate and preserve out recreational areas, historic sites, and be helping to support our socioeconomic diversity. Also, thanks for showing us that there is nothing etched in stone regarding our school renovations. There’s a lot of conjecture and scaremongering being provided out there. Thanks for the note of clarity!

    • This is not supporting our socioeconomic diversity as stated by H2OHomeowner.. It is only making it harder for working people to live here The total cost of home ownership or renting an apartment just keeps going up and taxes for nice to have items do not make it easier. I know people who earn a very good income but after paying their mortgage, taxes, water, utilities, health insurance, school debt, and child care they can barely make it. They will not qualify for an exemption because the only things they can deduct from their wages are their personal tax exemptions, cost for medical insurance, and out of pocket medical expenses. You can tell me its only $10.00 or $20.00 per month but which of their bills should they not pay so they can pay the tax. And this is only the start as each year it will go up and up. So, the only diversity we are going to have is the well to do, the rich and the very rich.

  8. Mrs Falkoff, though meaning well, has many items off. This is not about investing in Watertown. I would bet most people want to do this. This is about how, when and if they/we can afford to invest in Watertown. We currently have 6 aged schools and a override coming up in the next 2 years to address our schools. For me this is about priorities, as our school buildings are overcrowded and not working for many students in Watertown. There will be a large – large to me is anything over 3% – tax increase next year if you look at the Town Managers document:
    http://www.ci.watertown.ma.us/ documentcenter/view/20784 . See page 11 to 14. At 20% residential exemption these are large increases. Our town normally doesn’t give a 25% exemption and it would be very unusual if they did this year. Two councilors attempted that last year but were voted down, much to the dismay of many two family owners who saw increases of 8-10%. This year looks to have condos and single home owners in the 6-8% tax increase range for 20% residential exemption. This doesn’t take into account rentals which will increase as the owners will not get a residential exception. So yes, with CPA the tax , on many would be in the 8-10% instead of 6-8%.

    Also the schools do have a Master Plan which I believe will be presented in a Nov meeting. Thus the override should be coming very soon, in the next year or 2, not ten years out.
    To your statement, “we are doing fine”, which was in all caps by the way, I would tend to agree, as we are taking care of our parks via the Capital improvement plan and affordable housing has been increased with the bump up to 15%. If we are doing fine, then why should we ask the residents of Watertown for another tax when we also know a even more important tax is knocking at our door?

    • Thank you WatertownTogther. Please let your friends, especially renters, who may think they are exempt know too. It’s also on the BACK of the ballot

  9. First. It does not seem like the CPA is doing a very good job of building community. Seems more like it is tearing it apart!
    Second. Susan’s article was articulated very well but it did seem to be one sided as would be expected given her support of the CPA.
    Third. Using the term special interest does not mean that someone profits but that the goals of the special interest group gets met. Dog parks, soccer fields, restoring documents and artifacts, affordable housing, etc. Why do we need to pay taxes for these nice to have items? The town mandates that developers building over x number of apartments have so many of them as affordable. Why can’t the historic department do some fund raising to fix or build what they want, many other organizations do that? And, finally the town can budget for playgrounds repairs and upgrades as they have in the past.
    Fourth: Regarding the razing of historic structures can anyone tell me which historic structures have been razed. I mean historic, per state definition of historic, not old and
    run down houses.
    Fifth: When we talk about the renters of modest income how does helping a few with modest income help the others with modest income as their rents potentially rise when real estate taxes go up. Worse than that, Watertown residents do not even get priority for any affordable housing that comes on the market!
    I pay enough in taxes and I am more than willing to pay what is necessary for the schools as they are a requirement, but I do not want to pay taxes for the frills that the CPA would bring.

    • John, the CPA is not tearing apart our community, people like you are. I have read your comments over the past few weeks and find them patronizing and demeaning to your neighbors, who are not Bolshevik insurgents, but rather mostly decent people who may disagree with you.

      • To Joseph Levendusky: I really hope that you are not referring to me calling someone a “Bolshevik insurgent”. I have disagreed with many of the CPA supporters arguments and what I consider false statements but I have never called anyone a name, and I respect their opinions even when I disagree with them.
        I would appreciate your researching this and letting me know that you made a mistake in placing this unkind statement on me..

        • I stand by what I said John. The tone of many of your comments has been insulting. Implying that people are scheming with nefarious intent or lack common sense is insulting without necessarily calling them a name. The Bolshevik line was a joke John. A joke. Think about it–you might even laugh.

          • I think that you have an issue! I have argued my point of view and if you believe that my doing so were insulting when I never called anyone a name like dumb, stupid, liar, etc then that is your problem. I guess that you want me to just go along with the supporters of the CPA’s comments even though many of them are very misleading. Well, I did not fight for this country just to go along with what some people think.

    • I do however like your idea of prioritizing affordable units for Watertown residents if that is possible under the law.

  10. Excellent commentary, Susan … thank you. I appreciate your plain-spoken common sense, your command of the facts, and your positive and constructive perspective on the future.

  11. OK Susan… let’s start with basic English shall we…

    “Special Interest Group”

    Special — meaning unique, particular, or in this case appealing to limited people.

    Interest — a desire, a want,

    Group — a set or subset, in this case people. not necessarily the majority.

    Examples…. a limited number of people are interested in putting a bicycle path every where. And yes people will make money .. namely the vendors and contractors involved.

    A limited number of people expect their housing costs to be subsidized by other people. Again those that specialize in building subsidized units, those developers that get the subsidies, and those tenants getting the subsidies, stand to gain financially.

    So yes Susan the people backing the CPA are Special Interest Groups…. as are those who will benefit from it, should it pass.

    No Susan… we did not leave $15 million on the table. We saved the Taxpayers millions of dollars, that would have been spent on unnecessary items. If they were needed, then money ought to be found in the budget.

    Finally, the legislation is inherently flawed. It sets up system where money is being collected before any specifics are known about how it will be spent. That is not the fault of the CPA proponents. It’s the fault of Legislature for writing and enacting such faulty legislation. But just because the proponents aren’t directly at fault, doesn’t mean Watertown residents should buy into this sham.

    Moreover, there is nothing preventing the CPA proponents from listing specific examples and giving residents estimates of cost and time frames for these projects. But CPA proponents don’t want to go through that effort. They want to gloss over every detail, expecting people to fork over money without knowing how it will be spent.

  12. Folks, if they are no legitimate projects, they’ll find ways to waste the money.

    In Northborough they just spent a bundle of money to buy a function hall called White Cliff. It had gone out of business and was up for sale. The building has ZERO historical value. Now on top of the initial outlay, they have maintain and restore this building. And since it’s now public property, they will lose the tax revenues it used to generate for the town.

    I hear Mr. Dusku, talking about buying private houses to turn them into Subsidized Housing. So there again, tax dollars being spent to subsidize people’s housing cost… by making other people’s housing cost go up. After the initial outlay of money, we will lose the tax dollars that come in from private ownership.

    We just threw $800,000 away to buy a house to extend a bike path ! That was the same house, the Town didn’t want to buy in order build a centrally located Police Station. Instead, we tore down the Brown School, evicted a tenant that was paying Watertown Schools $200,000 per year, going up each year with according to the CPI.
    So we’ve lost over $2 million in revenue for the schools and now that we need classroom space on that side of town, we don’t have it. That BTW is something Susan Falkoff voted for!…….

    But we couldn’t buy that house back in 2004 or 2005, for an actual Community NEED. Instead we’re buying it to extend a bike path for relatively small minority of the population. As if we don’t have enough bike paths and bike lanes already. This is how we can expect our money to be wasted if the CPA passes.

  13. I do not know anything about Northboro but is sounds like they made a mistake in buying that property just given the loss of tax revenue. I think that I was there once as a teenager and it was a hugh facility.
    I also think that Watertown made a mistake in buying the house on 10 Winter St. Not only because of the loss of tax revenue but because of the cost to buy , tear down and dispose of the house, and then build a bike path that probably less than 3% of the residents will use. Close to 1 million dollars for 3% of the population does not sound like a good use of tax payers money from my perspective. It really would have been better to buy it to expand the police station and then we would still have the Brown school available for a school or some other recreation or just open space purposes. But we cannot cry over spilt milk.

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