In an unprecedented move, Fall River voters elected to levy a 1.5% tax surcharge that will allow the city to raise local and state revenue that can be used for projects related to historic preservation, open space, recreation, and affordable housing. Why is this unprecedented? Because Fall River is the only Gateway City (well, with the exception of Westfield if you’re using the state definition of those cities) to have adopted the CPA, and that’s likely due to significant challenges (both political and logistical) of passing any tax increase or surcharge in cities where tax rates are already perceived to be high.
One thing that may have helped Fall River is the recent change to the CPA legislation, which reduced the minimum required surcharge to 1%. But it looks like good old fashioned campaigning helped, too. Fall River CPA supporters took their message to neighborhood associations, the Herald News opinion pages, and a website that provides clear, concise answers to the questions and issues generally raised about the CPA. And as one of the initiative’s lead organizers, Al Lima, recently told the Urban Initiative, vision had a lot to do with it. By articulating to even recalcitrant neighborhood groups the ways in which CPA funds could be used to beautify their own communities, they were able to convert many voters.
So what’s next? Passing the CPA is just the beginning; now that the revenue collection mechanism is in place, plans must be made for using those funds for city projects. At least 10% of annual revenue must be used or set aside for each of these three categories: open space & recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Decisions will be made by the city’s Community Preservation Committee, the makeup of which is outlined on the city’s CPA advocacy website.
We look forward to seeing what great projects come out of Fall River via the CPA, and we also look forward to seeing if any other Gateway Cities follow in Fall River’s example!