Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Call To Revoke The Community Preservation Act

The following was submitted by Sturbridge residents Carol Childress, Barbara Search and Dave Holland--ed.



Come to the Sturbridge Recycling Center on Saturday, February 11 and 18, and sign the petition. Contact: to sign or to help get signatures.
  • Sturbridge is currently $4.3 million dollars in long-term CPA debt due to the completion of four very worthwhile but expensive CPA projects. Final payoffs on that debt are the years 2017, 2026, and 2030.

  • The 3% CPA Surcharge is ON TOP OF the current tax rate of $17.63 (less the first $100K of property value.) The chart below puts it into perspective: our town has the second highest property tax rate in comparison to nine surrounding communities. From a home buyer perspective, Sturbridge’s property taxes are off-putting.

  • We need to revoke the Community Preservation Act and stop new spending….NOW.

The 3% Surcharge can only be rescinded when all the debt is paid – we’re talking 2030, folks!
  • Currently, our annual CPA debt service exceeds our annual CPA Surcharge Revenue: the anticipated 2012 Surcharge Revenue is $360,000; the annual debt service is $413,482. *The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has opined that when communities consider borrowing for large CPA projects, the debt service should not exceed the SURCHARGE REVENUES – but Sturbridge’s does.

  • When the CPA was adopted, the state match was at 100%. Now, the match is 23%; as more towns adopt the CPA, the percentage of state matching funds declines.

Why revoke the CPA?

Reason 1:   We are $4.3 million in CPA debt that we must pay until 2030. We do not feel it is appropriate to fund new projects, especially in light of the 2011 natural disasters and the town’s current budget situation. The CPA can be brought back by voters at a later date if they so choose.

Reason 2:   In addition to the annual 3% Surcharge Revenue, the town relies on other Community Preservation Fund balances that are carried forward each year to pay the long-term debt; but those funds are also being spent on new, smaller projects. For example, at the June 2011 Town Meeting, voters approved $58,000 in four smaller projects plus $15,000 for administration – should that money be saved for when the state-match is reduced or depleted? Or can it be used to more quickly pay down the long-term debt principal and interest?

Reason 3:  Taxpayers need a break! We cannot revoke the 3% surcharge until the debt is paid; but we can revoke the Community Preservation Act and stop new projects from coming forward. We can stop further debt build-up, and we can stop using funds on new, smaller projects that deter funds away from our current debt.
FY 2012 Property Tax Rates (All communities except Webster have a single tax classification)
Rates are per $1,000 of assessed valuation (Source: MA Department of Revenue)
Brimfield $14.48Brookfield $16.45
Charlton $12.00Dudley $10.90
East Brookfield $14.22Holland            $15.18
Spencer $12.28Southbridge      $17.83
Sturbridge $17.63 (+3% Surcharge, less $100K exemption) Webster $11.78 (Residential) $18.47 (Comm’l & Industrial)
*MA Department of Revenue Opinions 2006-50 and 2004-464: "The amount of debt that a municipality may authorize under the Community Preservation Act is limited in amount to that payable from estimated SURCHARGE REVENUES over the life of the borrowings. (3/6/2006)."


  1. Thank you for bringing this information to us. This is one of those things that most of us just don'f realize is going on. Not that is a secret. It's not. But it is something we should be aware of before every vote that comes up regarding the use of those funds. Not only are we spending way over what we should, we have spent much of them on projects that are unnecessary compared to things like making housing more affordable here.

    It seems that some of us worry "the wrong people" might move into in keeping the cost of living here higher than those towns around us we are putting up that invisible (cost of living) shield that "protects" us - more often than not from our own grown children and elders.

    It is time to change things. Have town meetings as times more appropriately inclusive and stop spending on projects that can never be finished and bring only more and more ideas for spending.

    At one meeting it was suggested by someone brought in to speak that some of our businesses might turn their entrances backwards from the street to face the river and a river walk or trails. At another meeting a speaker mentioned the fact that our trails system could eventually cost many millions of dollars to do correctly. One even said something about having a trail system reach as far as no more than a couple blocks from every home.

    This never ending stuff has got to be put aside for our sakes and the sakes of our own family and friends.

  2. Credit for the compiled FY2012 Property Tax Rates goes to: Ken O'Brien and his blogsite,

    Sorry this omitted Ken.

  3. Thanks.
    I appreciate the acknowledgement.

  4. Please come to the Sturbridge Recycling Center or Shaws Supermarket this Saturday, between 9 am and 12 pm, and sign the petition.

    It's time to cut up that CPA credit card!

  5. The tea party was beaten by a 2-1 margin in Northampton when they tried to repeal the CPA there in 2011. I think we can beat them here as well. They want Sturbridge to head backwards. I think we should be moving forward.

    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts "gave" Sturbridge $2,291,510 in matching funds which the taxpayers spent on the restoration of the Town Hall and Center school among other projects. Repealing the CPA will accomplish nothing other than losing the matching funds which we qualify for now because of the CPA.


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