Frequently Asked QuestionsAnswers to common questions about the Clock Tower Project
You can find the answers to many of the common questions you might have below.
Why aren’t St. Mark’s parishioners funding this project?
They are! We began seeking donation commitments from within our congregation in 2019, and they have committed more than $350,000 to the capital project to be paid over three years in addition to their regular financial commitments each year for the operation of the parish. To date, we have received more than 80% of those designated Tower funds.
Can’t you ask wealthy St. Mark’s School alum for funding?
While both St. Mark’s Church and St. Mark’s School were established by Southborough patriarch Joseph Burnett in the 1860s, all formal ties between the institutions ended more than 100 years ago. We share a name but nothing more.
Wasn't there recent work done on the Tower?
Yes, in 2019 St. Mark’s received an emergency grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission for $50,000, matched by St. Mark’s Parishioners and used for the first phase of the project. This phase focused on tower roof restoration, protecting the building envelope from water penetration, and the most urgent repair: rebuilding the southwest corner buttresses. This work represented 20% of the total work needed.
How much do Southborough Residents contribute to the CPA fund?
The median household in Southborough contributes about $80 each year to the CPA fund. Learn more here.
What about other projects needing CPA funding?
Great news! All projects coming before Town Meeting in 2021 requesting CPA funding have all been accounted for in the budget. Southborough can do all of these projects for community preservation, recreational facilities and the like this year without needing to pick and choose between them.
Shouldn’t these tax dollars go toward fixing our roads? Supporting the police? Helping teachers?
In short, they can’t. Southborough residents voted for the Community Preservation Act years ago which restricts those funds to projects like restoring and preserving historic treasures such as the St. Mark’s Clock Tower, funding affordable housing, or creating open space. The Tower Project—and others like it—don’t increase taxes for Southborough residents, and the CPA program receives additional matching funds each year from the Commonwealth (this year it’s a 28.63% match, a little over $104,000). For 2020, the median household in Southborough contributed about $80 in taxes to the CPA fund.
Wasn’t there a legal case recently about not using CPA funding for churches?
In March 2018, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Town of Acton could award CPA preservation grants for religious institutions only if they met a narrow three-part test. Southborough’s town counsel Aldo A. Cipriano reported that the St. Mark’s Tower Preservation met all three parts, and could be favorably considered for a CPA preservation grant.
Have there been any preservation grants to churches since that case?
Since the Acton case, more than $9.6 million in CPA grants have been awarded to over 60 active religious institutions in Massachusetts, including a CPA grant of more than $1.43 million for the restoration of a Newton church tower this March.
Also the Massachusetts Historic Commission has already granted $50,000 to St. Mark’s in June 2018—after the SJC ruling—for Phase 1 of our tower restoration, along with multiple other grants to other religious entities. In our research with grant recipients throughout the Commonwealth, not a single lawsuit has been filed against any town or religious entity as a result of receiving preservation grants, including the grant received by St. Mark’s from the MHC.
Learn more about the Community Preservation Act.
Does this project violate the separation of Church and State?
Like you, we’re firm in our desire to not cross any lines in our nation’s founding principles which call for religious freedom in our society without government promotion. The restoration of the Clock Tower will not aid or support the religious worship of St. Mark’s congregation. No religious services take place in the free-standing tower, nor do religious symbols appear on it. Further, tower bells are not used either to call people to worship nor during our religious gatherings. Rather, the Tower’s restoration would preserve an icon of Southborough that has helped define the very character of our town for more than 130 years.
Town counsel Aldo A. Cipriano agrees, stating, “the grant, if awarded, appears, to this office, to be fully defensible.”
How can I help?
If you’re a Southborough resident, plan to attend Town Meeting on Saturday, May 22, 2021 beginning at 10am to vote in favor of the CPA warrant article to preserve St. Mark’s Tower. If you live elsewhere but have friends or family that reside in town, encourage them to browse this website to learn more about the project. Learn more here.