Thursday, October 30, 2008

AC: The pillaging continues


So let me get this strait: during this economic downturn Amherst College can afford to pay $2.3 million for an office building in the heart of the downtown that is currently valued at less than half that amount, but they will allow the Lord Jeff Inn to go to seed?

Okay, new rule: whenever a tax exempt entity—especially the LARGEST landowner in town—buys endangered commercial property and takes it off the tax rolls, they should maintain the tax payment to the town that the private owner paid.

This year Mrs. Hastings paid the town $16,000 on that building; next year (or whenever the leases are up for the Doctors, Lawyers, and Psychologists and Amherst College sends them packing) the building will net zero tax revenue.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I never saw this listed as for sale. Another inside job.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah but at that freaken price, only Amherst College could afford it.

And that does not include the cost to renovate into fancy offices...

Anonymous said...

Small consolation, yet it remains on the tax rolls until they start using it for tax-exempt purposes.

I don't think you'll be able to change the non-profit exemption from real estate tax .... but if you want to try, maybe you could contact the state representative who wanted to tax endowments and tip him off to the idea of your new rule.

LarryK4 said...

Very small indeed. But hey, in this troubling economy maybe they will not be able to come up with half million for renovations and they will allow the professional services folks to stay and do private business for a couple more years (but I doubt it).

Although I was pleased to hear the Assessor say that an abatement for the Lord Jeff Inn is not a slam dunk.

He said that if your house burns down in the middle of the fiscal year he would give you an abatement until it is rebuilt.

BUT, if you voluntarily tear it down (for whatever warped reason) he could continue to tax it at the old rate.

Anonymous said...

What is the definition of a "tax exempt purpose?" When Amherst College rents out their Alumnni House for weddings and other functions, is that tax-exempt or do they pay taxes on that amount to the town of Amherst? When big-name groups play in the Mullins Center, does UMass pay taxes on the revenue generated from that?

Anonymous said...

Wishful thinking. It's your primary purpose that counts. When commercial businesses let a charity use their facility for an hour or two they don't deduct that from their property tax.

The revenue from the Mullins Center doesn't have anything to do with it either. Tax exempt organizations, like universities and colleges, can have revenue producing operations. The Fine Arts Center charges admissions, and the UMass Campus Center has a hotel, for example.

This will just be another loss to our tax rolls.

$2.3 million doesn't sound like it's way overpriced. Remember, our dollar is getting so inflated that a million is not what it used to be. Not with $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

Basically, then, as long as you are categorized as a "tax-exempt institution of higher education," you are allowed to run revenue-generating businesses on your land and/or with your employees yet avoid paying taxes that other, similar businesses do?? Even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with your core mission of education?

LarryK4 said...

Umass, Hampshire College and Amherst College make a ton of money renting out their facilities for "summer camps" to private, for-profit entities offering frisbee, basketball, soccer, etc

And NO, the assessor confirmed that you can't put them on the tax rolls for 2 or 3 months out of the year.

Yeah, Mullins Center also has a lot of entertainment business activity that is not related to Umass academics, but they still manage to lose money every year hand over fist.

If you can relate paying $2.3 million for something the town values at under $1 million to the price of coffee at Starbucks, then you make WAY to much money at your job (probably not in the private sector)

Anonymous said...

If Amherst was serious about revitalizing downtown, it would have found a way to help acquire this lot and make it available to a developer housing, downtown condominiums.

Opportunity lost.

LarryK4 said...

But even I would not approve of the town paying $2.4 million for this property to outbid Amherst College (and God knows what they would have ended up bidding in a live auction type duel with the town or a developer)

Remember, they paid $4.3 million for the Dakin estate that at the time had a valuation less than $1 million to keep it out of the hands of developer Barry Roberts.

Anonymous said...

$2.4 million is a heck of a lot cheaper than any building Amherst College could build. It's the last building on that block so it's right next to one of their dorms. Smart move.

LarryK4 said...

Hell, Town Hall is pretty close as well. How about $8 million?