To the editor:
Westport voters — support reduction of the CPC (Community Preservation Committee) tax from 2 percent to 1 percent in the April 8 election.
CPC has spent $7,680,458 on 81 separate projects. Most CPC funds have been granted to seven entities interacting with a committee whose membership is not representative of town population. Thousands of north-end watershed residents benefit little from the millions administered by CPC.
CPC funds derived from a 2 percent surtax added to real estate taxes can only be used for four categories: housing, open space, recreation, historical. This is in addition to all previous debt commitments of $937,328. Also this year we will be voting on unfunded debt amounting to $1,449,457 for school, town and capital items.
Open space funding of $2,030,000 has been excessive. Westport has 11,266 acres of protected land area leaving only about 1,833 acres of land that can be developed. In spite of this excess CPC is scheduling an additional $250,000 for FY15 to preserve more land. CPC interactions were with only three initiating agencies. Considering that most purchases benefitted wealthy landowners, funding this excess while neglecting critical town needs is not justifiable. Another unfair practice is that there are times when lands are removed from the tax rolls.
Included in open space was continuous funding of the Estuaries Committee for a long-term “study,” now $255,000, continuing the long-term cozy relations between CPC, Estuaries and other committees. This was an unfair difference from the CPC’s prompt refusal to grant $35,000 to the Ponds Committee to do a study that related to a project affecting about 35,000 watershed acres, a study that had support of SMAST and Marine Fisheries.
Historic —$1,759,355 —over two dozen separate projects were funded. Only about half of the funds were spent on town-owned buildings and only $94,554 was used to fund one north end project. About $55,000 was used to repair tax-exempt private religious buildings. About $100,000 was used to renovate private buildings of fraternal organizations. $415,000 was used to purchase private property to be turned over to a private organization, taking priority over development of recreational ballfields for town youth. $70,000 funded restoration of a lifeguard station by the Westport Fishermen’s Association. And $161,500 of FY15 funding will be used to purchase and restore the town’s Head Garage for the Westport Rivers Watershed Alliance.
Spent in the other allowable categories: Affordable housing, $1,736,431. Recreation, $657,000. These two items were the major justifications for accepting CPC in 2001. Both have suffered from low priorities in favor of more glamorous endeavors of agenda-driven connections. Reducing CPC to 1 percent will not affect these items
Reducing CPC to 1 percent would result in funds to the town of $220,090 plus state match of $57,434, instead of town $440,180 per year plus 26 percent state match of $114,447.
This would have no effect on all CPC recommendations for FY15 which amount to $1,001,053. These are already in the works and will be approved by Town Meeting. That takes us through July, 2016. In any case none of those funds could be used for any crucial town needs and would stay in the control of the connected groups. CPC also has reserve funds of $688,058.
Approval of the 1 percent reduction needs Town Meeting ratification before re-introduction to a ballot vote to ultimately effect the reduction. History has shown that a special interests majority at Town Meeting will vote to deny a ballot vote and not allow a representative vote on this issue, thereby continuing select control of CPC taxes. Luxury taxation has replaced funding our basic needs, exemplified by this year’s override requests of $1,449,465. Also witness that our highway department has been reduced from 20 to 6 personnel. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
Reducing CPC funding to 1 percent is overdue. Let’s take this first step. Vote yes on ballot question 3 on April 8.
Claude A. Ledoux