UMass is by far the town's largest employer
These days -- or most any over the past 35 years -- it's not often I find myself in agreement with forever activist Vince O'Connor, but on this particular issue he's dead on correct. There, I said it. Step one in any good multi-step program.
UMass currently pays the town under $500K as a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes courtesy of a "5 year strategic agreement" signed w-a-y back in 2007. Thus it expired over three years ago but has been extended annually ever since.
I'm told by a reliable source that a new multi year agreement had been on Town Manager John Musante's desk for many, many months now.
His unfortunate passing two weeks ago today could obviously delay even longer the ratification of that new agreement -- if indeed it is worth ratifying.
Because if the amount is under $1 million per year -- which it probably is since Mr. Musante seemed not overly interested in jumping on it even though he had come under pressure of late by the Select Board to get an agreement resigned -- I would tell UMass to go fly a drone, err, kite.
With a Public Safety budget of $10 million and our police and fire/EMTs dealing with UMass students on and off campus amounting to 25% of our emergency services utilization, that alone comes to $2.5 million the town should be reimbursed.
Amherst FY16 (ends June 30, 2016) budget
And with UMass grad students sending their children to our public schools (56 total, times our high $20K per year average cost to educate) that comes to another $1 million plus per year.
If UMass were smart -- and they are after all a "higher education" enterprise -- they would seek to cut a new five year deal as soon as possible.
Because if Representative Kulik's bill passes to force tax-exempts to pay 25% of their assessed value, and Amherst and Hampshire College end up paying for more than UMass there will be hell to pay.
This year Amherst College paid the town $130,000 -- up from the previous year's $90,000 -- for AFD fire/EMS services while Hampshire College paid us a BIG fat zero.