Paul Solomon is hoping when voters go to the polls for the state election on Nov. 2, they will see a ballot question asking Belmont to adopt the Community Preservation Act.
On June 18, he and Ann Verrilli, chairman and treasurer of the Belmont Community Preservation Act Committee, respectively, filed a statement of organization for a ballot question committee with the Town Clerk's office this week. The purpose, the statement said, is to encourage the adoption of the act in Belmont using a citizen's petition.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been left on the table in the past which we could have used for preserving open space, historic sites and creating affordable housing and recreational facilities," said Solomon, a former member of Belmont's Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting member since 1967.
Gov. Paul Cellucci signed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) into law nearly a decade ago on Sept. 14, 2000.
"We've delayed this long enough in Belmont and it's now time to try," said Solomon, who said surrounding towns have adopted the CPA years ago and it is time Belmont followed suit.
Adoption of the CPA would allow the town to spend funds in places where it is needed that are so often placed on the back burner due to other pressing financial concerns, Solomon said.
"Do we need this more than firefighters and road work? No, of course, we don't. But this represents a source of funds we could have for projects that always take second place to others," he said.
And, he pointed out, the state reimburses towns who adopt the CPA $32 for every $100 spent under the dictates of the act.
Solomon said such projects the town could spend CPA funding on include work on the Underwood pool, creating a recreational area at the incinerator site off Concord Avenue as well as creating affordable housing which is seriously needed in Belmont.
In order to have the question on the ballot, the Belmont Community Preservation Act Committee will need signatures from 5 percent of the town's registered voters or 800 residents. Solomon said the committee is aiming to get 1,200 signatures and will begin campaigning in the late summer or early fall.
If the voters decide to adopt the CPA, Belmont can raise real estate taxes up to 3 percent but the committee is asking that they be raised 1.5 percent.
According to the Belmont Community Preservation Act Committee's citizen petition, there would be exemptions for the additional 1.5 percent tax increase: property owned and occupied by people who qualify for low-income or moderate-income senior housing in the town and $100,000 of the value of each taxable parcel of residential real property. A taxpayer receiving a regular property tax abatement or exemption would also receive a pro rata deduction in the surcharge.
Should Belmont adopt the CPA, Town Meeting would then vote to appoint a committee of local people to draw up plans for use of the funds. If residents don't feel the CPA is working as they expected, they can repeal it.
The CPA requires that communities spend, or set aside for future spending, a minimum of 10 percent of annual CPA receipts into open space (excluding recreational purposes), historic preservation, and community housing.
The remaining 70 percent of funds may be allocated to any one or a combination of the three main uses, including public recreational purposes, at the discretion of the community preservation committee and subject to the approval of Town Meeting.
This gives each community the opportunity to determine its priorities, plan for its future, and have the funds to make those plans happen.
In the 10 years since the CPA was established, Solomon said 143 towns have adopted it including Cambridge, Arlington and Lexington.
"Ten years into this, the matching funds from the state have gone done," he said. "We've been on the outside, looking in."