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Feb 2, 2015 1:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Community Preservation Fund Broke Major Records In 2014

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Feb 3, 2015 3:24 PM

It could be a bright future for land preservation on the East End: The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund is breaking records across the board and getting ready to breach the billion-dollar mark.

Total revenues raised from the fund’s creation in 1999 through the end of 2014 are $992.52 million. That means the fund could hit the $1 billion mark when January 2015 revenues are calculated in a few weeks.

Last year, a whopping $107.69 million in revenue was produced in the five East End towns combined, the highest annual total in any year since the fund’s inception, according to a new report issued by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. The total for 2014 crushes the $95.43 million collected in 2013 and surpasses the previous annual record of $96.02 million set in 2007, before the Great Recession.

In December 2014 alone, the CPF took in $14.43 million—the highest one-month total in the history of the program.

“It is clear that the real estate industry on the East End is in its strongest position since the start of the recession in 2008,” Mr. Thiele said this week in a press release. “CPF revenues have increased by 167 percent since 2009 and have consistently grown for the past five years.”

Annual revenues for all five East End towns last year were up, with Southampton and East Hampton reaching all-time highs. At $64.68 million, Southampton Town’s total jumped 11.9 percent from the $57.79 million collected in 2013, while East Hampton Town’s revenues rose 12.3 percent over last year’s $28.15 million, pulling in $31.62 million.

Riverhead Town’s annual revenue leapt an impressive 32.2 percent, raking in $3.41 million, compared to $2.58 million in 2013. Southold Town totaled $5.78 million in 2014, jumping 18.9 percent over the $4.86 million produced the previous year. Finally, Shelter Island Town drew in $2.20 million, rising 7.3 percent over the $2.05 million collected in 2013.

The CPF tacks on a 2-percent tax on most real estate transfers and is exclusive to the East End. Monies from the tax are put into a fund in each of the five towns that is set aside for open space purchases and in some cases other community uses, like historic preservation.

“The good thing about how the CPF works is that it keeps pace with development. When development and real estate go up and are hot, threatening community character, it’s also generating money at the other end,” Mr. Thiele said on Monday.

As one of the architects of the fund, Mr. Thiele said he never imagined it would generate so much revenue. “When we were working for this bill in 1997 or ’98, we had to provide a fiscal estimate, and our best guess at that time was that for the five towns it would generate $15 million,” he said. In 1999, its first year, the fund collected $13.25 million in the five towns.

Since then, the towns have gone on to spend about $850 million in CPF revenue to purchase and preserve land.

Currently “flush with cash,” the municipalities can continue to actively pursue land protection for open space, farmland, parks and recreation, and historic preservation, he said, noting that protecting water quality, which would involve infrastructure improvements, could be another goal added before the fund is extended in the future.

“We are now well positioned to extend the fund for an additional 20 years and add water to land preservation in our efforts to protect the East End’s community character,” Mr. Thiele said.

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"... It currently rests at $992.52 million." This does not make any sense. Sounds more like the amount collected to date than money in the bank. If it were money in the bank, it begs the question "why?" as that would indicate that no land is being preserved. It would be interested in knowing not just how much as been collected in a given year and how much has been spent.

By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Feb 2, 15 6:08 PM
Just to clarify, the $992.52 million is for the life of the CPF since 1999, in all five towns combined.

As noted elsewhere in the story: "The towns have gone on to spend about $850 million in CPF revenue to purchase and preserve land."

By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 15 2:14 PM
Thank you. I noticed the story had been corrected from the original article.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Feb 5, 15 8:47 AM
The CPF is more of government fleecing the people. Proper planning, open space during development and zoning laws could all achieve what the CPF does. Now they are using it to by nightclubs in the name of preservation. Every time the CPF purchases a property it in turn takes it off the tax rolls raising taxes across the board. When does it end?
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 3, 15 8:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Proper planning, open space during development and zoning laws could all achieve what the CPF does."

That is 100% false.

Local Government cannot obtain development rights over farms with zoning laws and "proper planning".

Zoning laws and proper planning cannot result in thousands of acres of private property being preserved for the public while the original owner is fairly compensated.

Zoning laws and proper planning would have not gotten us anywhere near where ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Feb 3, 15 9:28 AM
May I Humbly suggest that you take a ride up island and visit the strip malls and box stores and ask yourself,where would I would prefer to live in The Hamptons or next door to ABC mall?
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Feb 3, 15 9:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
The CPF fund is basically a good idea. Yet, take a drive around Town and look at some of the so called preserved parcels. Conscience Point looks like it's about to fall down as do many other locations. Overgrown, neglected and forgotten. But they were preserved! Right?

Unless the Town starts spending some of these millions to actually keep up these properties what is the point?
By G (342), Southampton on Feb 3, 15 9:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
No one considers a tax break for the people who wish to afford a home? How about the property owners strong armed into basically selling the property rights away to keep the property they own and avoid the exorbitant tax rates?
The problem is solving itself. Just keep ignoring the problem of not having a major arterial road out east. That will continue to strangle the east end slowing reasonable and needed development and adding daily grid lock. This mistake actually dates back to the ...more
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Feb 4, 15 8:18 AM
Nature, you obviously are not part of any real estate transactions. Also, stop comparing to Brookhaven. A lot less people and there are many non commercial corridors. Whenever a taxing authority has this much surplus, nothing good can come of it. And, again, by taking off the tax rolls, others must pay more. Thats the way it works.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 4, 15 9:05 AM
As But I'm Blank! points out... CPF doesn't apply to first-time home buyers and exempts (I believe) the first $250,000 of a new home purchase. So, generally speaking middle class and lower class people are exempt from paying this tax.

The VAST majority of money raised from CPF has come from the 1% who happily trade properties and make plenty of profit despite this tax.

Additionally, the tax has been approved by voters time and time again.

PILOT funds (which come ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Feb 4, 15 2:16 PM
With the account so flush with new money and investment income, perhaps the percentage of funds that are confiscated from people selling their homes could be reduced. That money is supposed to be deployed for conservation which obviously is happening at a much slower rate than the cash accumulation.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Feb 4, 15 1:29 PM
The purchaser pays the CPF, not the seller, and it is indexed to prevent entry level homes from being "priced out".
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 15 1:39 PM
Thank you, much appreciated. I still think that there is a lot of taxing and not much conserving. That fund isn't doing any good with a billion dollars in it so politicians can act like it is some type of achievement.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Feb 4, 15 4:10 PM
Kevin - the article should be more clear.

The $1,000,000,000 is the TOTAL amount paid into the CPF fund for ALL 5 towns over the life of the law.

Southampton Town CPF has probably around $40,000,000 in their current account and likely spent near the whole budget last year.

There is by no means $1 billion sitting in these accounts.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Feb 4, 15 6:07 PM
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