Summary of Question 5
This question involves amendment of the Town's acceptance of G.L. c.44B, §§3-7, also known as the Community Preservation Act (the "Act"), by increasing the surcharge imposed on real property from one and one-half percent (1 1/2 %) to three percent (3%) of the tax levy, as determined annually by the Board of Assessors. The Act allows municipalities to impose a surcharge on real property to establish a dedicated source of funds for the three purposes of the Act: open space, including land for recreational use; historic resources; and community housing. Acceptance of the Act also entitles municipalities to receive an annual distribution from the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund, which supplements the funds collected pursuant to the surcharge imposed by the Town and increases the available funds for eligible projects.
As approved under Article 2 of the February 12, 2001 Special Town Meeting and by the voters at the 2001 Annual Town Election, the surcharge was initially fixed at one percent (1%) of the annual property tax assessed on real property. An increase in the surcharge to one and one-half percent (1 1/2 %) was later approved under Article 38 of the May 1, 2006 Annual Town Meeting and by the voters at the 2006 biennial state election. On a motion made under Article 37 of the April 28, 2014 Annual Town Meeting, the Amherst Town Meeting voted to increase the surcharge to three percent (3%). If approved, the additional surcharge would be imposed on taxes assessed for fiscal years beginning July 1, 2014.
The Act contains certain mandatory exemptions and also allows municipalities to approve certain optional exemptions. The Town has adopted two such optional exemptions from the surcharge: (1) any property owned and occupied as a domicile by a person who would qualify for low income housing or low or moderate income senior housing in Amherst; and, (2) one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) of the value of each taxable parcel of residential real property. Regardless of whether this question passes or fails, these exemptions will continue to be applicable in the Town of Amherst.