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Malden, Medford, Woburn to vote on tax surcharge

Voters in Malden, Medford, and Woburn will consider a tax surcharge to support open space purchases and other preservation needs at their Nov. 3 elections.

Residents in the three cities will consider joining the 158 municipalities who have adopted the state Community Preservation Act, which authorizes an up to 3 percent property tax surcharge for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreation projects.

The proposals in Malden and Woburn are for a 1 percent surcharge, and for Medford, 1.5 percent. All would exempt properties owned by low-income residents and low- to moderate-income seniors. The first $100,000 value of residential and commercial properties also would be exempt.

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The surcharges would raise an estimated $508,000 annually for Malden, $1 million for Medford, and $662,000 for Woburn. The estimated annual cost to the average homeowner would be $25 in Malden, $53 in Medford, and $27 in Woburn.

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Woburn voters rejected the CPA last year and in 2001. But supporters are hopeful this year, according to June Mackenzie, chair of the committee urging a “Yes” vote.

“We realized we had a job to do to educate voters, and we are doing that,” she said.

The CPA “allows us to invest in our community, and to take advantage of funds we have been missing out on since it passed 15 years ago,” Mackenzie said, referring to the money the state provides CPA communities. The state contribution, generated from fees at registries of deeds and in recent years also from budget surplus funds, is expected to be approximately 30 percent this year.

“We feel it’s a great reward for a small investment,” Mackenzie added, noting that Woburn could use the CPA for such projects as the planned rehabilitation of the public library.

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But the Woburn Business Association strongly opposes the ballot question.

“Woburn’s city government is running at top notch,” said Michael Meaney, the group’s executive director. “There is not a lot of issues that the city needs money for,” he said, adding Woburn is already tapping its local meals tax to buy open space.

Meaney said the CPA surcharge would be an burden on businesses that already pay significant sums in taxes and water charges.

Roberta Cameron, who chairs the Medford group campaigning for the CPA, is optimistic about the outcome.

“Medford is overdue for community investment in numerous areas,” she said. “And I think there is a growing population that would like to see the quality of life and the quality of services improved.”

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She said potential uses of the CPA include upgrades to City Hall, the Chevalier Theatre, the library, and other municipal buildings.

Steven Keleti, chair of the committee urging a “Yes” vote in Malden, said a key impetus for the effort is the the recent surge in development in the city, which voted down the CPA in 2001.

“Malden has the second lowest percentage of protected open space in the region, so we need more places for recreation,” he said.

Keleti said the former Malden Hospital site is one of several that the city might be able to convert to a park with the help of CPA money.

But Councilor at large David D’Arcangelo opposes the Malden ballot measure.

“I like many provisions in the Community Preservation Act: affordable housing, historic preservation, open space preservation,” he said. “But I don’t think we should be doing it on the backs of taxpayers.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.