This week, selectmen endorsed a measure brought forward by the Community Preservation Committee to lessen the burden of the three percent CPA surcharge paid by Duxbury residents.
Selectmen unanimously approved a Town Meeting warrant article that would exempt the first $100,000 of assessed value from being included in the three percent Community Preservation Act surcharge. This exemption is allowed under the Act without losing eligibility for subsequent rounds of funding, said CPC chairman John Bear. Bear said the committee realized that the impact of the CPA surcharge would create a larger tax burden on residents in the next few years, as they will be paying more in property taxes for new capital projects such as the new middle and high school, police station, crematory and fire station.
“We’d get an unintended increase,” Bear said of the CPA surcharge.
To mitigate this, the committee asked the town to exempt the first $100,000 of property value from the tax surcharge. Bear said the town did not get a choice in the amount since it is the only amount allowed by the Act.
The exemption will decrease the amount garnered by the surcharge by about $100,000 to $200,000 a year. Bear said the total of CPA funds collected is expected to decrease to $1.1 million from $1.2 or $1.3 million. If voters approve the exemption at Town Meeting, it must gain a majority vote on the ballot in the November election, and it would not go into effect until 2014. This is due to a waiting period required by the Community Preservation Act.
In related business, selectmen voted unanimously not to endorse two citizen’s petition articles that are attempts to lessen the tax burden on residents.
The first article would reduce the CPA surcharge from three percent to one percent. The second would reduce taxes on senior citizens over 70 by five percent.
Resident Tom Chapman is bringing forth the CPA surcharge reduction article. Chapman said he has been supportive of the CPA for land purchases in the past, but he feels that the tax surcharge is going to be more of a burden on residents as their taxes rise due to the recent capital projects. He also feels that the projects being funded by the CPA in recent years are more marginal and less necessary than in the past.
Selectmen Chairman Shawn Dahlen said he didn’t support Chapman’s article because he felt the cut was too big and because something was going to be done by the CPC to address the tax burden.
“I don’t know what the right number is but I’d be opposed to your proposal because it’s such a drastic cut,” Dahlen told Chapman.
If Chapman’s article is supported by Town Meeting, it must then gain approval on the town election ballot.
Selectmen also voted not to endorse a citizen’s petition article that would reduce property taxes by five percent for senior citizens over 70. This article was submitted by resident Richard Brennan. He said that ten percent of property in town is owned by seniors over 70 and that most are on a fixed income and cannot afford the looming real estate tax increase brought on by the capital projects.
“This reduction will help them cope with these taxes,” Brennan said.
Selectmen did not support the article because they had too many questions about it. They wanted to know if it would reduce taxes for all people over 70, regardless of income. Also they said they wanted to know how much of an impact the article would have on town revenues and where those revenues would be made up.
“In essence you are shifting the burden from one group of taxpayers to another,” said Assessing Director Stephen Dunn.
Dunn said that the town already offers a tax reduction to seniors whose income is not more than $37,520 and whose assets are less than $68,000, not including a home. He said approximately 25 people take advantage of this tax reduction program.
Brennan called the current program “insulting” because of its income and asset levels. He wants the town to do more. Selectmen said they’d prefer to see if they could tinker with the tax reduction allowance in place by asking the legislature to raise the income eligibility limits.