Should the state increase Registry of Deeds recording fees to boost revenues for the Community Preservation Act?


Cynthia Stone Creem

State senator, Newton Democrat

Senator Cynthia Stone Creem
Senator Cynthia Stone CreemBruce DiLoreto, State House Legislative Photographer

The Community Preservation Act is now in effect in 175 Massachusetts communities where voters have chosen to add a small surcharge — up to 3 percent — to their local property tax to fund projects that improve the quality of life in their hometowns. I am the lead Senate sponsor of a bill to ensure the state continues to keep its CPA promise and provide meaningful matching funds for this invaluable program.

Communities decide on their own CPA priorities for affordable housing, outdoor open space and recreational areas, and historic preservation. Over 10,000 projects have been successfully funded, including the exterior restoration of Gloucester’s historic City Hall, adaptive reuse of Easton’s Ames Shovel Shop into 113 new housing units, preservation of over 200 acres of working farmland and natural woodlands at Mainstone Farm in Wayland, and rehabilitation of Bowen Field recreational space in my home community of Newton. Every project has provided a public benefit — but the future success of this program is now in jeopardy.

From the beginning, the law included a promise that CPA communities would receive state matching funds generated from a $20 surcharge added to the fee for recording most documents at registries of deeds. Starting in 2002, the first year of the state distribution, every CPA community received a dollar-for-dollar match. Unfortunately since 2008 registry transactions have declined while more communities have joined. In 2009 the state match dipped below 50 percent and since 2014 it has hovered around 20 to 30 percent, with extra help needed from the Legislature to reach even that low match in three of those years. As Boston, Springfield, and other large cities adopt CPA, the pie must grow or the state match will shrink to insignificance.


The $20 CPA surcharge has never been adjusted — which is why it is now past time for us to enact a responsible increase. By raising the surcharge by $55 to $75, we can assure our communities a 45 percent match in 2020.


This bill has bipartisan support from legislators across the state, with a majority in both the House and the Senate co-sponsoring it. Let’s pass this legislation and give this valuable preservation tool the funding boost it needs.


Stephen Brody

Norwood Town Meeting member

Stephen Brody
Stephen BrodyHandout

The proposed state legislation to increase the Community Preservation Act surcharge we pay at the registries of deeds should not be allowed to pass and become law.

This bill would increase the cost of recording real estate documents at the registries. Currently, a $75 fee is charged for recording most documents at the registries of deeds. This fee includes the $20 surcharge imposed to provide matching state funds to communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act. The proposed bill would increase the surcharge by $55, to $75. Therefore, the recording fee, itself, would rise by $55 to $130.

Many communities across the Commonwealth have now adopted the CPA. This includes the city of Boston. Supporters of the proposed legislation contend that the state is running out of sufficient funds to continue to be able to provide appropriate matching dollars to communities with the CPA in place..

But let’s remember that homeowners in the cities and towns that have adopted the Community Preservation Act already pay a surcharge of up to 3 percent on their local real estate tax bills. Through this charge, every homeowner - as well as every business property owner - is paying into their municipality’s Community Preservation Fund.


Therefore, every city and town that has adopted the law is already collecting CPA funds through the local CPA surcharge that is included in its real estate tax collections. It is simply not warranted to ask people to pay more at the registry so that CPA communities that are already taxing their citizens for the program can receive an even larger state match.

The fees charged for recording real estate documents are high enough now. And the people of Massachusetts already pay enough in taxes and fees. Raising the fees by providing for a much higher CPA surcharge is in my opinion outrageous. Enough is enough.

I hope you will urge your local representative and senator to oppose this bill, S1618, “An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue.” We do not need additional costs added to our existing tax and fee burden in Massachusetts.

There is simply no justification for this cost increase.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.