Friday, November 9, 2007

Expensive Feed for the Great White Elephant

One of the advantages of a Daily paper cranking out four or five editorials per week it they occasionally sink a hole in one. Today’s Gazette for instance.

Yeah, it’s bad enough the free spending state encouraged South Hadley and Amherst into the golf business in the first place with $500,000 Open Space Grant’s--but now to further embolden South Hadley with a $237,000 grant for a Clubhouse throws good money after bad. But hey, it’s state money so who cares?

Perhaps the small business owners (believe it or not golf courses are considered small businesses) who have to unfairly compete with South Hadley’s Great White Elephant.

Private business creates tax dollars while public entities consume them. And when that public business goes into competition with private, tax-paying entities they have an unfair advantage.

The Leisure Services Empire in Amherst (fancy term for Recreation Department) has been salivating for over a decade to construct a mega-million Recreation Building. And Umass is about to break ground (is spite of a historic barn on the site) on a $50 million Recreation Center that will instantly kill two health clubs—one in Amherst and one in Hadley-- who target Umass students (not to mention another one in Hadley about to open).

Amherst College did a $7 million renovation of their Fitness Center a few years back and the Amherst Athletic Club went from signing up an average of twenty Amherst College students per semester down to one or two, or a 90% hit. Ouch!

Of course Amherst College has every right to do whatever it wants to serve its students. Just as Umass—a state agency—has every right to take care of students’ health fitness needs. I do draw the (battle) line with Umass however if they open up subsidized memberships to employees or their spouses.

As an Amherst Finance Committee member mentioned at a recent meeting almost everybody in Town Meeting and the town itself has some connection to Umass. If that Recreation Center were a private enterprise it would pay the town $750,000 in taxes and membership rates to consumers would have to reflect that overhead.


O'Reilly said...

You make a great point. When Umass builds a fitness center to serve the students, that's one thing. When they build a fitness center to serve Professors or moreover, the families of professors, that is ENTIRELY another.

If they charge the Professors and their families a fee than that is clearly a taxable event. Even if they don't charge, there is a precedent that services given as part of an employment agreement are taxable at market rates.

I think you could contact some of the fair taxation organizatiosns in MA that use litligation as a tool to challenge unfair tax opinions.

LarryK4 said...

Well…for instance Umass, Amherst and Hampshire Colleges all rent out their dormitories and other facilities during the summer to private camps (cheerleading, soccer, Frisbee, etc) and the tax assessor can't put them on the tax rolls for that 2 or 3 month period.