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Community Plundering ACT

“Lies-lies, damn lies and statistics”; these are the words of Benjamin Disraeli. Were he not a Victorian era British Politico, you would think he was referring to the latest campaign being waged to raid our wallets.

Let’s start with the name: Community Preservation Act (CPA). What exactly is it? Plain and simple it’s a nifty name for a tax increase. More precisely it is a surcharge, or a TAX ON A TAX.

If you think your taxes are too low, if you think the Town can better spend your hard earned money, there is no need to read any further. Just vote yes and go about doing whatever it is you do in your ivory tower. On the other hand if you have the ability to think critically, please pay attention, as we are about to take a swing at the slick pitch being served up by snake oil salesmen.

I’m holding a flyer trumpeting the cornucopia of “benefits” that accompany the CPA. I’d like to spend a few moments translating it for you.

The flyer promises: “Matching contribution by the State ‘expected’ at 100% for ‘several’ years”. --Translation-- The State match is not guaranteed and there is no telling how long it will last. Here is the way it really works. The State match comes from a very limited stream of revenue. Every time property is sold, the Registry of Deeds assesses a small fee which goes into a “Community Preservation Trust fund”. “Depending on the amount available in the fund, communities are eligible to receive matching funds up to 100%.” Excuse me? We have to increase our own taxes in order to MAYBE get some of this money back. Sounds like a scam you’d see on the Soprano’s! And what happens when the Real Estate bubble finally burst and this small stream of revenue dries up? We will be left holding the bag -- that’s what happens! Not to mention, matching funds and grants always come with strings attached. Just look at the recycling center fiasco.

The flyer boasts: A “5-9 member community preservation committee recommends projects to the Town Council”. --Translation-- Another unelected and unaccountable committee will oversee a slush fund. Just what we need, more agenda driven hacks diverting monies to pet projects. Or worse, promoting ventures that will benefit firms with “connections” on the CPA committee! The fine citizens of this storied Commonwealth are all too familiar with “Authorities”, “Committees”, and “Commissions”. We don’t need another pack of unelected bureaucratic policy wonks deciding how to spend the taxpayers’ money.

The flyer touts “exemptions” for this group or that group. --Translation-- They can’t get enough votes if they tax everyone at once; so they play the class warfare/special interest group shell game. But let the buyer beware! Like death, the taxman cometh to every man’s door. Besides, the “exemptions” for the elderly and low-income households are deceptive window dressing. Think about it, many people with limited means rent apartments; they can’t afford to buy homes. Tenants are not exempt from this surcharge. They pay real estate taxes through their rent. One of the first clauses included in a standard residential lease is the “Tax Escalator Clause”. If the clause is not used, the rent will go up at renewal. When taxes go up, rents go up. The bottom line is most tenants regardless of age, income, military service, shape, or size will pay higher rents if the CPA passes.

Moving on, the flyer says some of the CPA money will be used for “Affordable Housing”. --Translation-- more publicly subsidized housing projects. The proponents of CPA point to the high rents in Watertown. They say people can’t afford to live here. Point taken, but increasing taxes only compounds this problem for most people. Beyond that, I don’t know too many people who dream of someday moving into public housing. Most good folks living in the projects want to move out of them as soon as possible. Moreover, where will they put this subsidized housing? Robbins Road or say Oliver St? I think not, these districts have “Historic” houses and “Open Space” to be preserved! No, the residents of densely populated areas will have to bear the burden of even greater density, while the plush neighborhoods are preserved. They have a name for this: SNOB ZONING!

In addition, the proponents of CPA don’t mention that subsidized housing must be made available to non-Watertown residents. This can only mean one thing; a bigger drain on public services. That in turn will lead to even higher real estate taxes. The end result will eventually squeeze the middle class out of Watertown. We will be left with ivory-tower leftwing elitists and those living in subsidized housing. Sounds like fertile ground to create another People’s Republic!

Folks, this is real simple. If you think your taxes are high enough and you can better spend your own money; do two things. First enlighten the misguided candidates who support the CPA; we don’t need another tax on a tax. Second, on November 8 th Vote against the Community Plundering Act.

John DiMascio

Communications Director
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government



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