Town Manager to Select Board: "Very, very close" (to a deal)
The five year "Strategic Agreement" with our #1 client for pubic services -- UMass/Amherst -- expired June 30, 2012. But the contract was extended for one year after former Town Manager Larry Shaffer (and his secretary) suddenly left town just when the agreement was expiring.
Town Manager John Musante told the Select Board last night that a new "partnership" was "very, very close" to being a done deal.
The previous agreement paid the town $350,000 for ambulance protection but was supplemented recently by an additional $80,000 to cover extra AFD weekend staffing to keep up with a spike in demand, all too much of it alcohol related.
But, the previous agreement also clearly stated: "If in the future the town vacates Mark's Meadow, UMass may reimburse the town for a portion of the net cost of educating students living in university tax-exempt housing."
The town did indeed (amazingly) close down Mark's Meadow in 2009 -- saving $800,000 in town tax monies the first year. But nobody ever bothered to reopen the "strategic agreement" to seek reimbursement for the most expensive municipal product Amherst produces: education.
In 2009 ARPS reported 55 students enrolled from UMass tax exempt housing, and most recently (back in March, when the Town Manager requested the current figures) the number stood at 57.
At the current cost to Amherst taxpayers ($18,388 per pupil) for our elementary schools, that alone comes to $1 million.
Current Emergency Response Statistics. Graph courtesy Tom Valle Secretary Local 1764
UMass also absorbs about one-quarter of Amherst Fire Department services (Umass has a police department but not a fire department) and AFD's annual budget is $4.13 million, so that's another $900,000 in UMass costs borne by Amherst taxpayers.
In 2010 the University of Vermont (10,459 undergrads, 1,540 grad students) paid Burlington (population 42,282 with one-third of all property tax exempt) $1,100,000 or THREE times what the University of Massachusetts (21,373 undergrads, 6,196 grad students) paid Amherst (population 34,874, with one-half of all property tax exempt).
And UVM has their own ambulance service!
Therefore, no matter what the spinmeisters at UMass News and Media Relations say, anything less than $1 million per year for our "partnership" over the next five years is a bad deal.