Monday, November 19, 2012

An Expensive View

615 Bay Road, Amherst

Even though the house and entire property are only valued at $343,800 total, safe bet Town Meeting will approve spending $505,000 for the (20 acre) property alone, which is only assessed at $163,500.

Why? Well it is indeed "nice" -- even the reserved assessor noted that on the property card. But one of the main reasons put forth in a memo to Town Meeting is perhaps the most typical argument used over the past forty years for conservation purchases:  

As the appraisal indicates, there is ample frontage and acreage to develop four single-family house lots from the Ricci property. With municipal water on the street and sewer within 300’ of the property, it is a concern of the Town that as the market demand for home sites and housing increases, the owners will seek to develop the property. The adjacent properties to the west succumbed to a similar fate in the early 1980’s as a larger property was subdivided into two large single-family house lots.

Amherst has one of the tightest housing markets in Western Massachusetts, yet we continue to stifle supply in the face of ever increasing demand. In this case, four housing units that will never get built.  And those twenty acres come off the tax rolls in a town where over half the property is already owned by tax exempt entities. 

And it's not like slumlords buy up brand new houses to rent to students. It's the tired older single family units they scoop up and expand the occupancy by two or three times in order to maximize rents.

Interestingly one of the properties refered to in the report to Town Meeting as one of those evil adjacent "large single-family house lots" is the Souweine Top Notch Farm, otherwise known as the "House" immortalized by Tracy Kidder.

Yes, the same book where Mr. Kidder aptly describes Amherst as  “a college and university town, the kind of place that has a fine public school system and a foreign policy.”

If Amherst conservation aficionados had their way, a great book would never have been written. 

Yet the venerable Amherst town seal is a book and a plow.

Property rolls up to the Holyoke Range
UPDATE Tuesday morning. Town Meeting did of course approve the purchase using $151,500 from Community Preservation funds but the bulk of the money ($353,500) will come from a state grant which is far from guaranteed.


Anonymous said...

It bears remembering that any new house is actually a


in terms of taxes if it comes with school children as they almost always do.

500,000 house = $10,000 per year in taxes

2 kids x $14,000 (I forget the exact number, please remind me)per year to educate = $28,000 per year in school costs

NET LOSS to tax payers = $18,000 per year for each new house built in Amherst.


Dialing for Ponziville dollars said...

Spending soothes the bitterness of an openly failed mindset.



Larry Kelley said...

Kind of simply math you're doing.

Actual cost to educate works out to, on average, $17,135 for elementary and $18,329 for regional high school.

But those four houses, if they had two kids each, would throw 8 kids spread out over 12 grades.

Going from 1600 kids to 1608 does not suddenly increase the cost of operations by $137,000 in the elementary school (8 x $17,000) or $147,000 at high school level.

So the cost increase would be more like zero.

Anonymous said...

You might make the case that the first year a new kid comes to school their presence might only act to bring down the per pupil cost a fraction, but 8 new kids, given the way most families are spread will be at only 1 or 2 schools?

It only takes one kid to raise a grade size to the point where they have to add a new class and hire a full time teacher.

So potentially, even one kid could be the one to cost a full time teacher salary of what? $50,000 a year plus benefits?

Larry Kelley said...

Back in the good old days maybe. But the schools are starting to get a tad more fiscally responsible. Just a tad.

(Average APRS teacher salary is $64,484 vs state average of $63,000.)

Anonymous said...

(Average APRS teacher salary is $64,484 vs state average of $63,000.)

WOW. Even adjusted for inflation, that is twice what teachers were paid 20 years ago. Are kids learning twice as much????