Residents will hit the polls next year to vote on the Community Preservation Act, which would tack a 1-percent surcharge onto property taxes to pay for projects like rehabbing Veterans Memorial Auditorium at Doherty Middle School.

Town Meeting overwhelmingly passed the act Tuesday night, reversing their 2002 rejection of the effort.

The Community Preservation Act adds a surcharge of up to 3 percent on property taxes, and the state, in turn, matches the amount raised dollar for dollar. The money is used for recreation, affordable housing, historical preservation and open space projects.

State-matching funds comes from Registry of Deeds fees.

"I'm very pleased," preservation act advocate John Hess said after the vote. "We had quite a bit of support. ... I think people had more information this time around."

The town could also receive state aid for projects like improving Old Town Hall or Memorial Hall Library, and building playing fields at the Reichhold property in Lowell Junction.

Andover voters must pass the measure at a 2008 annual election before the town can start collecting the extra money. If that happens, the town could raise $4 million by 2013, and with the state's 100 percent match, it would mean $8 million for projects.

The average homeowner will pay an additional $60 in taxes starting in March 2008, if the ballot vote passes.

The Board of Selectmen did not support the preservation act 3-2, and the Finance Committee was split 4-4 on the issue.

"As your property taxes increase, so too will your CPA tax," Selectman Brian Major said. "The new tax must be in place for five years."

Tuesday night, 13 speakers | supportive Selectmen Mary Lyman and Jerry Stabile among them | stood in line ready to speak in favor of passing the act. Two residents | including recent selectman candidate Mary Carbone | spoke in opposition.

"We cannot depend on the state for too much these days," Carbone said.

But only a few people were allowed to speak before Town Meeting moved to cut off debate and vote.

One hundred and twenty Massachusetts communities, including North Andover, have passed the preservation act since its 2002 inception. Another five cities and towns could adopt it this year, according to CPA advocate Susan Stott.



What's next?

Town Meeting also created the Community Preservation Committee, which will form in the fall to compile a list of possible projects the town should use preservation act money on. Hess acknowledges that the first list will be the most important | it must sway residents to vote in the act at the March 2008 election.

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