Mike Nicolson is the co-author, with Lawrence DiCara, of "The Downsides of Prop. 2 1/2 and the Community Preservation Act" in the most recent edition of Commonwealth Magazine.
Nicolson and DiCara argue that both Prop 2 1/2 and the Community Preservation Act are well-intentioned policies, but unintentionally contribute to growing inequality in Massachusetts. These measures determine in part how municipalities collect and spend monies garnered through property taxes.
Prop 2 1/2 limits the amount of money towns and cities can collect through property taxes. A major problem with the proposition, the authors argue, is that affluent communities are more likely to pass override and exclusion votes to increase taxes for funding needed community projects. Less affluent communities, where overrides are few and far between, are falling behind in needed funds--funds that, because the communities are less affluent, are more likely to support projects that serve low-income residents.
The Community Preservation Act (CPA), adopted by municipalities via local ballot initiatives, allow for a surcharge on local property taxes to support open space acquisition, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreation. Communities that adopt the CPA are eligible for state matching funds. These matching funds are supported by all state residents, but go only to communities that have adopted the CPA. The CPA hence has regressive effects, directing monies collected from the poor to wealthier communities in our state.
Nicolson and DiCara recommend strategies for fixing these inequities through revised tax policies. More information about their proposed strategies is available through the article.
Mike Nicolson is a student at the Commonwealth Honors College majoring in history and political science and a pre-MPP student at the UMass Center for Public Policy and Administration. He also serves as a mayoral aide in the City of Gardner. Lawrence DiCara is a former Boston City Council president and a partner at Nixon Peabody.