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GREATER BOSTON-Despite a resounding defeat in Boston, the Community Preservation Act managed to pass in five of the 12 towns outside the city where it was on the ballot. About 10% or 35 towns in the state have now passed the measure, which places a surcharge on property tax to fund affordable housing, and preserve historic and green space.

Agawam, Cambridge, Easthampton, Newton and Peabody passed the Act while Beverly, Gloucester, Malden, Methuen, Saugus, Waltham and Woburn did not. Elizabeth Adams, program director for municipal finance at the Trust for Public Land, a Boston-based land conservation non-profit organization, notes that the legislation had a well-funded opposition and the communities near Boston were especially impacted by its campaign. She adds that the low turnout also worked against the Act because more elderly property owners are voting and they are less inclined to add on a property tax. Moreover, the opposition’s campaign–which was led by Fidelity Investments and included the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties–targeted elderly voters.

The proposal was enacted by state legislation in December 2000, allowing towns to pass it if they choose. Thirty towns already passed the law last spring in municipal elections. The surcharge could be anywhere from 1% to 3%.

In Newton, the surcharge will be 1%. In Cambridge, the Act will result in no tax increase because the city already decided that if the act passed, property taxes would be lowered. “The towns get state matching funds so in Cambridge they said we might as well get those matching funds,” Adams points out. “So voters couldn’t lose there but that’s rare.” As part of the act, the state will provide matching funds for all communities up to $26 million.

Twenty communities have the actt on their ballot for the upcoming spring elections but Adams says that it is unclear whether the communities, which defeated the Act, will place it on their ballots again. She adds, though, that she thinks the act will be on the ballot in Boston again one day.

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