By Magda Janus
FRAMINGHAM – On paper the Community Preservation Act sounds like a fabulous idea. A relatively small tax on real estate, with up to 20% matching tax money from the State, and our City has a fund to use on just about anything to make Framingham prettier, more affordable and more attractive to newcomers.
Someone calculated that at best it would amount to 1.8 million a year, not a lot of money considering the variety of potential projects that it could be used for. Many are saying that the State is giving us “free” money if we go with it. But it is not free, we have already paid it to the State and now we are told the State is giving it to us IF we volunteer to pay up some more.
Often that is all that is presented and forced upon those of us who may be hesitant to “invest” their hard-earned money to give to our government to decide, through a long opaque process, how it will be used. CPA is multifaceted, and the collected funds can be used for a variety of projects that should be separate initiatives: “open space preservation, preservation of historic resources, development of affordable housing, and the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities.” Those funds can be collected for years before they are used. There will be a new Committee, partially appointed by our Mayor, that will work with our community using a list of potential projects to choose one to adopt for Framingham.
As a homeowner, who will be forced to pay additional tax if Question 3 on the ballot passes, I am not convinced that I want to volunteer my money to an unknown endeavor.
Give me a specific project, for example a new, desperately needed elementary school on the south side of Framingham, and I will consider that additional tax an investment on an asset to our community. Our City is growing, but our school buildings are not. Many are very old and need repairs, updates, and possibly replacement. My own children have been using those schools, and as a mother I would love to see every child experience their education in a new, state of the art school.
But I have a difficult time giving even as little as $50 a year (possibly more as the years go by), to unspecified projects. It is a wish list, like the one my kids had when they were little and wanted just about anything when their grandparents gave them a little cash for their birthdays. A $50 or even as much as $100 in the eyes of a small child appears to be able to get them a new game (along with a new gaming console), a several pounds of candy, and possibly that one toy mom and dad always said: “Not getting it now, but maybe Santa can bring it this year.”
This is how I see this tax, a dream fund that can make all the wishes of Framingham residents come true.
Let’s be real, it is not enough to get anything done without a lot more additional money, but enough to makes us all crazy and to pull every which way to get something new for our own neighborhoods. CPA and its cure-all approach to City’s needs and wants will continue to highlight the differences between the neighborhoods whose residents are in different income brackets.
Let’s not get blinded by the amount of so-called “free” money from the State, let’s be realistic and think about all those in our community who are struggling, especially this year, to keep the roof over their family’s heads and food on the table.
Let’s not forget how very diverse our community is and what this, small to some who are a lot more fortunate, amount of money will take away from the budgets of many less fortunate families in Framingham.
Let’s vote “NO” on Question 3! It is the right thing to do for the City of Framingham if we want to preserve what makes our community unique.
Magda Janus is a Framingham resident who lives in District 7.