34,525 sq ft UMass Campus Center hotel competes with private sector hotels in the Valley
In an effort to coerce the town into signing a new multi-year "strategic partnership agreement," aka Payment In Lieu Of Taxes that is long overdue, UMass -- our beloved flagship institute of higher education -- is taking a hard line approach: withholding payment of a local option room tax everybody else pays, including tax exempt Amherst College.
But in so doing they are most certainly biting the hand that feeds them. Over the past 30 years there's not been a bigger legislative cheerleader for UMass/Amherst than Stan Rosenberg, who also just happens to be an Amherst resident.
And currently Stan holds the powerful position of Massachusetts Senate President.
Stan went out of his way back in 2009 to draft legislation specifically to close the loophole that allowed the Campus Center Hotel to dodge our 6% local option tax.
In an email to his staff Stan wrote:
"I want to make sure that we insert language into the bill that effectively says that hotels that are located on college campuses or operated by any other form of nonprofit/education organizations are subject to room occupancy excise.
This is extremely important as I have been trying to get UMass to the right thing and apply this tax for a very long time voluntarily and they have refused. This is wrong and I don not want to miss the chance to fix this finally now that we have a chance to do it."
Currently UMass pays the town $455,000 PILOT for AFD ambulance and fire protection. AFD and 911 Dispatch has a annual budget of $5 million with about 25% of their total runs involving UMass students, so that alone should be well over $1 million in reimbursements.
In addition 56 children living in tax exempt UMass "family housing" attend our public schools, which have a high average cost of education just over $20,000 per student, so that alone should be well over $1 million in reimbursements.
In fact the previous 5 year "strategic partnership agreement" that expired June 30, 2012 specifically stated that if the town closes down Marks Meadow Elementary School the University would come back to the bargaining table and reopen the agreement to consider a cash contribution for educational services.
Note to UMass: When you play hardball, sometimes you get beaned in the head.
UMass is the town's largest employer and #2 landowner behind Amherst College