Thursday, January 19, 2012

The new face of Amherst College?

Jim Brassord pitches Amherst College reconstruction projects to Amherst Historical Commission

Todd Diacon and Jim Brassord pitch BID to Amherst Select Board

With recent appearances before the Select Board to support the formation of a Business Improvement District as well as the Planning Board and Historical Commission for new construction and major renovations, Jim Brassord seems to be the poster boy for all things Amherst College, although President Biddy Martin did get out for the grand reopening of the stately Lord Jeffery Inn.

Amherst College President Biddy Martin (does not require a microphone)

And both the BID and Lord Jeffery Inn will contribute greatly to the revitalization of downtown Amherst. Amherst College is the largest landowner in town and even though the vast majority of their empire is tax exempt, they are still the town's largest taxpayer contributing about $350,000 last year for 40 some odd houses used to shelter professors and of course their profitable nine hole golf course that puts the town's moribund municipal offering to shame.

The Lord Jeffery Inn, open for business

Amherst College is also refurbishing the old historical Baptist church downtown for office space and launching a $200 million, six year construction project, for a new Life Science Building on campus. And all these construction/renovation projects will be protected by the Amherst Fire Department.

Amherst College owned former Baptist Church in the heart of downtown Amherst

Former Town Manger Larry Shaffer crunched the numbers four years ago to discover Amherst College cost the town about $120,000 annually for fire/ambulance protection. That year the College, kindly enough, donated $120,000 to the town's General Fund.

Ahh, but then the stock market slid into the toilet and Amherst College's endowment declined from $1.3 billion down to a paltry $1 billion. In response they shelved the $20 million reconstruction of the Lord Jeff, and reduced the Payment in Lieu of Taxes to Amherst from $120,000 to $90,000 and let Amherst taxpayers go back to subsidizing emergency services.

But now their endowment has W-A-Y more than recovered, sitting at a historic high, $1.6 billion. The sparkling renewed Lord Jeff is open, and work is about to commence on the former Baptist Church they purchased two years ago for $2.3 million, over twice its assessed value. But even at that lower value the building generated $16,000 in taxes to the town. And at today's whopping tax rate ($19.74/$1,000) would have generated $20,000.

Amherst College, around that same time, purchased and removed from the tax rolls houses on Hitchcock and Snell Street that today would also be generating $20,000 if still on the tax rolls.

22 Snell Street
14 Hitchcock Street

Most recently the town was overly generous with the Spring Street Parking lot renovation at the Lord Jeff's front door, spending over $350,000 in enterprise fund money and providing almost two years worth of work for an already busy enough DPW.

Spring Street Parking lot adjacent to the Lord Jeff

So let me recap: Over the past three years Amherst College has added to the protection portfolio of the Amherst Fire Department, removed buildings from the tax rolls and reduced annual payments to the town, all while their endowment has grown significantly.

Currently Amherst, the town, is cobbling together the FY13 budget which goes into effect July 1, 2012. And for the first time in many a year there's no gloom and doom talk emanating from Town Hall about devastating budget cuts, although the schools, as usual, are looking at a $500,000 shortfall.

Since Amherst the College and Amherst the Town are synonymous with education it would be both fitting and nice if the College donated a chunk of change to either the town for new fire/ambulance equipment, or the schools to help close that $500,000 sinkhole.

And I'm sure Town Manager John Musante or Superintendent Maria Geryk would buy Biddy Martin (or Jim Brassord) a beer at the Boltwood Tavern.

Recent typical weekend for AFD (note calls to Amherst College compared to UMass)


Anonymous said...

The Spring Street parking lot is not for the Lord Jeff anymore than it's for La Veracruzana or Collective Copies. It's just part of the town's parking, which makes it for the Taste of Amherst, the fair, and for any other time someone needs to park in town.

LarryK4 said...

No kidding. I believe I simply stated the lot was at their front door. Pretty convenient, eh?

Of curse last year we did do $250K worth of repaving for Hampshire College as part of the Atkins Corner Project. And Hampshire, unlike UMass or Amherst College, pays the town nothing for emergency services.

Anonymous said...

Good point, but they do pay sales tax for all the hippie clothes they buy at the Mercatile, and don't we have a meals tax for all those pot-induced munchies?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and Atkins is now selling booze.

Anonymous said...

Since Amherst College and the town are synonymous with education it would be nice if Amherst College would cease and desist from throwing the excellent preschool program known as the Little Red Schoolhouse off the campus and at the same time, absorbing their endowment. Little Red, a top-notch preschool serving children of Amherst College staff as well as children from Amherst and surrounding communities for nearly 75 years is trying hard to find a new location for their program. They are also trying hard to keep their endowment. The endowment was funded by donations to Amherst College specifically for the Little Red Schoolhouse. Yet, Amherst College has no qualms with absorbing the endowment after throwing Little Red off campus. Where is the outcry on this story, Larry?

There are not enough pre-school slots in Amherst now. With the loss of the Little Red Schoolhouse, there will be about 20 less slots. Where is the outcry??

LarryK4 said...

That sounded like a whole lot of outcry to me.

Anonymous said...

Right, and when those little kids breathe in all the toxins from the building being built you will be complaining all over again.

Anonymous said...

So Hickory Ridge is on the rocks. So much for free enterprise.

LarryK4 said...

Golf courses are like newspapers: endangered.

Unless of course they are run by the town where they simply suck more money out of taxpayers pockets.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between need and want. While little red is a nice preschool, working parents need more than 4 mornings a week for their children. Quality full day programs are the slots that are lacking. Even the program at Crocker ends early.

Anonymous said...

Full day programs are not pre-school, they are child care. There are some very good childcare programs, but they are not full-day preschool. Little Red fills an important role in that it is a pre-school only. And, they have been treated very unfairly by Amherst College.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, they've had years to figure out a new location. Instead they buried their head in the sand. Guess what? Head in sand = lack of oxygen.

Anonymous said...

The important role that a morning only preschool provides is a place for junior to go so mommy doesn't feel guilty during her mani-pedi and massage.

Anonymous said...

Anon 457, you don't know what you are talking about. Surprise surprise on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that they were notified over a year ago. They did nothing for the first year but ignore it and try to wish it away.

Anonymous said...

wow. high quality preschool is a huge factor in later student achievement and here is one great, inexpensive, well-regarded preschool being attacked for...well what? just for existing and having parents that take care of their kids the rest of the day, find other arrangements for the afternoon or who can afford a ... gasp...pedicure? can a person get a pedicure every day? how silly.

save little red!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1039, You don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

It's just a building. It's the teachers that do the teaching. If the education is so great, move. No one is stopping you.

Across the Tracks said...

You must compare the percentage of students and fire calls to Umass versus Amherst, and the cost of tuition for either. Amherst is more expensive, and despite that pretty new building they are constructing are not a science center. I agree it is time to step up and pay for them, and they should do it via income. Not to mention the fact that they have their own student ambulance service (something UMass cannot do yet) which limits fire-calls. I imagine once UMass implements that (it was on the table many years ago) the amount of calls will decrease significantly.

Anonymous said...

Who has their own student ambulance service?

LarryK4 said...

Not Amherst College.

Anonymous said...

How much does Williams College pay to Williamstown?

LarryK4 said...

This list is five years old, so I would imagine the PILOTs went up a tad:

Berklee College of Music: $191,304

Boston College: $261,397

Boston University: $4,406,158

Emmerson College: $27,029

New England School of Law: $13,125

Harvard: $1,810,639

Northeastern University: $141,132

Suffolk University: $141,132

Tufts University: $135,582

Wentworth Institute: $35,867

Harvard: $2.4 million

MIT: $1.5 million

Harvard: $3.8 million

Providence, RI:
Brown University: $2 million

RI School of Design: $792,000

New Haven, Ct.
Yale: $2 million

Ithica, NY
Cornell: $1.1 million

Swing batta batta said...

A swing and a miss for Larry here in the bottom of the first folks...

LarryK4 said...

"If the call is thought to be of a potentially life-threatening nature or at the request of the patient, the Amherst Fire Department (AFD) Ambulance is dispatched along with ACEMS responders."

Anon 8:22 AM asked if Amherst College runs its own "ambulance service". They do not.

It's a high fly ball, going, going...gone!