I really like the community-preservation program.
It was one of the programs I pushed hardest for when I was in office, and continued to support since.
Community preservation is the program that taxes you an additional 2 percent and along with a match from the state has had a fabulous impact on the town by allowing it to do some things that would just not have been priorities out of the General Fund Budget.
Things like the Dillon/ McAnespie Park in Collinsville, the renovation of Harmony Hall, the preservation of 46 acres next to Dunlap Sanctuary, the partnership with the state in the preservation of two farms down on Parker Road.
All good stuff, and before anyone gets their knickers in a bunch, the folks that run the program have done a great job.
So why the column on community preservation?
The way this program works is that we as a town must spend at least 10 percent of the fund on land preservation, which can also mean recreational land, plus 10 percent on historic preservation and 10 percent on affordable housing.
Dracut voters enthusiastically supported this new tax because they were told it would be primarily a land- preservation program and to date it has lived up to the promise. Town Meeting has traditionally set the goals of at least 70 percent of the money for open-space preservation.
Unfortunately, it seems the town has run out of trading partners.
For one reason or another it appears that folks that own the available land don’t want to preserve it through the program.
There are a few reasons, but the one I hear the most is that they don’t want their families to be dragged through the political muck here in town. All of that jealously-driven, ignorant babble that we hear on local cable every time one of these projects is funded has taken a toll on people and the future of the program.
Now we could as a town begin to change the program to something else.
Other communities have different priorities and spend the money on other things. Every year the Legislature considers bills that would change the allowable CPA spending.
CHAPA, the champions of Chapter 40B housing developments, wants the money to be able to be used for direct mortgage and rental-assistance programs. Others want it to be used for renovating existing recreational facilities.
What will the program look like in the future?
I haven’t a clue, but with land owners in town reluctant to preserve their land with the use of community-preservation funds, it’s a good bet it will “evolve” into something different than you voted for a few years ago.
So it becomes a matter of priorities.
In the next few months you will be asked to consider a tax increase for the purpose of renovating Dracut High School.
The school tax on average residential property will be around $150 to $175 per year.
The average community-preservation tax is somewhat less, but if it were gone, the overall tax impact of the school project would be somewhere around 40 percent less.
Would eliminating the CPA tax make it easier for homeowners to support the school project ?
I’m just saying…
Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-AM from 6 to 10.