Saturday, October 17, 2015

Playing Hardball

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


Anonymous said...

Just remember, without UMASS, the only jobs in Amherst would be milking cows. Stop badmouthing the golden goose. Why don't you start going after churches to pay taxes, are they evil, like you portray UMASS?

Larry Kelley said...

I never mess with God.

And UMass is no God.

Anonymous said...

Lemme guess: liberal. Generally disdain churches.

Dr. Ed (part 1 of 2) said...

Larry, UMass may not be a God, but it is a municipality -- it had to be defined as such in order for the UMPD to be able to provide mutual aid. The law that authorized that explicitly states that "UMass is to be considered a municipality."

Note how the DOR emphasizes that the CC Hotel needs no licenses from the town.

Amherst can no more tax the UM CC Hotel than it can tax the ones in Hadley -- or in Boston for that matter. Fight this Larry and you'll be back to dealing with Barney Blowout with your own boys...

And you really don't want to make a fuss about the NVA children because they are 100% low income and nearly 100% minority and/or foreign-born as well -- not just because you will be branded "Racist, Sexist, (and likely) Anti-Gay" but because these children bring with them revenue streams far in excess of what you would get in property taxes on their squalid rental abodes. Remember that your figure is based on what the town's estimates the value of NVA to be, and not what the DOR would approve/support after the inevitable abatement petitions that all of the other apartment complexes successfully pursued -- not only would the valuation be reduced by the same (average) amount those were reduced by (variance -- appraiser erring higher than actual value) but further reduced by the encumbrance upon the property.

My doctorate is in curriculum & pedagogy, not school finance -- and presuming that Team Maria's Minions are competent in school finance may be risky when it's quite clear that they aren't competent in much else -- but there is all kinds of money (much of it Federal) to help pay for the education of children such as these. I could even see some of the Title I(?) money for migrant farmworkers being accessed -- I've seen this done elsewhere. (Perhaps Maria's Boy-Toy might want to enumerate on all the Federal money she's getting to help reduce the schools' burden on the Amherst taxpayers -- and Kurt, just because the money comes via the DESE doesn't mean that it is actually "their" money -- much (most?) of it is Federal money routed through them.(

And as to "State" money -- if the low/no-income residents of the 240 North Village Apartments (NVA) (and the ~20,000 even lower/no-income undergraduates living in all the UM dormitories) weren't considered to be "Amherst residents", Pine Street would never have been repaved. It's not just money for your schools (including possibly ~63% of the cost of building a brand new one) but "state aid" for everything from your police to your community infrastructure (eg Chapter 90 paving money). This money is largely based on two things: population and median household income -- and remember too that each 19-year-old college student is considered a "family" and a "household", where your wife's income is combined with yours to calculate your "family income", the four college students renting a house are considered four separate families and hence calculated as four separate households.


Dr. Ed part 2 of 3 said...

Part 2

Hence, for the purpose of keeping the math simple, let's presume that the Kelly household income was $100,000/year and that you were the only folks living in Amherst. Mean, median, & mode would be $100,000 -- the average of a single number is the number itself.

Now let's presume that four college kids move in next door -- and while most UM students have an annual income in the $5K-$15K range, it becomes a distinction without a difference for reasons you'll quickly see and the math is much simpler if you simply use zero.

Hence you first calculate combined household income --> $100,000 + $0 + $0 + $0 + $0 --> which is $100,000. You then divide by the total number of households in the town, which is now five. (Remember, it's four separate families next door.) $100,000/5 = $20,000 --> What happens is that a town that had (and in reality, still has) a median household income twice the state average is now given aid on the basis that it's median household income is below the poverty level!

Money which would otherwise go to other municipalities is instead redistributed to Amherst -- the converse of this is how Bill Cosby screws Shelbourne by making Shelbourne look far more prosperous than it actually is. Amherst gets a LOT of money because of this -- both State & Federal money including both Community Development and Housing Assistance funding on the Federal level. And while calculating how much would be "lost" were the college students residing in Amherst instead considered to be residing in their parents' hometowns is a philosophical question, considering how much money should be going to UMass instead of to Amherst is a very real question when you remember that UMass is a Municipality!!!!!.

So yes, you could say that Amherst is not responsible for educating the children residing in NVA, as NVA is in a different municipality (which it legally is), and you could say that (absent a contract similar to the one with Hadley), the AFD is no more obligated to provide ambulance services to UMass than it is to Hadley -- particularly now that there is a law defining UMass as a "municipality."


Dr. Ed Part 3 of 3 said...

Part 3

Remember too why that law was necessary -- a municipal police department can only request "mutual aid" from another municipal police department for a whole bunch of reasons outlined in the five paragraphs I just decided to trim out. It has to do with command, control, authority, and lots of legal stuff that can get quite messy and I'm not even sure he can deputize a UMPD officer as a Special APD Officer without violating the State Ethics Law. And then what happens if the officer is injured or injures (body or property, e.g. MVA) some third party.

Those familiar with labor law know what I mean when I say "Pinkerton's." In the 19th Century, they were Big Business' version of "Blackwater" and the legacy of that era is that the APD can't just call WalMart and ask them to send a couple dozen of their "loss prevention" guys for help. And hence Amherst got UMass declared to legally be its own town.

And not only would the revenue from the AFD Ambulance runs to campus evaporate along with the expense were the AFD no longer obligated to provide ambulance service to UMass, but I believe that the Pacheco Law would preclude UMass from hiring the AFD to provide this service. UMass is *STATE* and hence while the AFD are *public* employees, they are not *state* employees, different unions, and the union that represents EH&S (I think it is now NEA) would argue that hiring the AFD constituted "privatization." They would argue that their bargaining unit had the right to do this, and I not only think they would win if they took it to arbitration but doubt that UMass would even make them do it.

The end result is that, without either the "Cherry Sheet" largess or the revenue from the AFD "ETOH" runs, Amherst couldn't afford to have an AFD as large or as well trained/equipped as it does today. Even though it doesn't have enough guys now, there would be layoffs. Many of these experienced guys would have to start out at the bottom of the seniority list at UMass -- if they even got hired because a lot of the maintainers are volunteer EMTs in various "Hilltown" volunteer departments and (as UM employees) would have seniority over them. (Something similar happened to me and why I couldn't keep the "Acting" Grade 13 position I had at UMass.)

Jeff needs to tell Larry to "shut up."

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, you are not a bigot and you are better than this:

"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."

"On campus" is one thing -- it legally is another municipality -- but the UM students residing within the jurisdiction of the Town of Amherst are RESIDENTS of the Town of Amherst WITH ALL THE RIGHTS & PRIVILEGES OF AMHERST RESIDENTS!!!!!

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution not only says so but it was written for the explicit purpose of preventing people from making the implicit argument underlying your explicit one. The only rational basis you have for claiming that UMass should reimburse Amherst for resident services which Amherst provided to these particular Amherst residents -- residing on property which Amherst DOES tax, RESIDENTS PAYING AMHERST'S EXORBITANT PROPERTY TAX (VIA THEIR RENT!!!) -- the only way you can logically do this is because you consider them less than Amherst Residents and/or less than human beings.

The South tried that stunt with African-Americans, and while they got away with it for over a century (one of our nation's greatest shames), it was still wrong. I'll go further -- Reconstruction was also wrong and one reading Lincoln's Second Anog. Address can presume that he wouldn't have permitted Stanton (Sec of War) to do the things he did (Johnson was Impeached for trying to fire him) and the fact that the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding Lincoln at Ford's theater -- who instead were instead drinking at a bar elsewhere -- were never disciplined, speaks for itself. As does the fact that while Lincoln's 1860 VeeP was Hannibal Hamlin of Bangor, ME (and Maine was the birthplace of the Abolitionist movement), Johnson was a US Senator from Tennessee, who remained in the Senate even though Tennessee joined the Confederacy. As the US Senate didn't recognize the Confederacy, they had to recognize him as a US Senator from a US State.

In other words, the people trying to end racism actually wound up creating Jim Crow via the *MEANS* by which they sought to achieve this noble end, but it was the RINOS who made the deal -- let our guy be President and you can have Jim Crow and the Posse Commotoitious Act, Reconstruction will end. The same way the RINOs today are making deals with NoBama, but I digress...

Larry, you're not a bigot nor a racist -- and not only do you try to be a good Christian but you are an Irish Catholic. Do I really need to remind you of the despicable way the Catholics were treated in the Commonwealth -- the Blaine Amendments and the rest? Do I really need to remind you of the "Irish Catholic Need Not Apply" signs and the rest?

Larry, UMass students are human beings collectively equal to you and every other "townie." Some are A-holes, but then I seem to remember two members of the Selectboard and a School Superintendent who considered you to be even worse than that, I believe they dragged the police into that, didn't they? (And that also was wrong all the way around -- undiplomatic, yes, but you were in the right both times.)

Larry, how do you think "Ma Kelly" would have felt had the WASPs then running Amherst gone to the State and demanded restitution for all the expenses involved in educating "Irish" children in Amherst's public schools, and the expense of "arresting all the drunken Irishmen" and the rest. Some consider "paddywagon" to be a racist term -- and there is some merit in that argument.

Larry, "Ma Kelly" and her children were Amherst residents equal to all the other Amherst residents including the Dickinson's -- I think you'd agree. Well the UMass students living off campus are Amherst residents equal to you and you can't argue the former without arguing this as well.

Dr. Ed said...

One more thing:

While I have no children, you don't see me complaining about the vast amount of money being spent on K-12, do you? (Beyond what I consider unnecessary, wasteful and or inappropriate -- you don't see me demanding that only the parents be paying for the education of their children, do you?)

How is that different?

Anonymous said...

You certainly shouldn't complain, because you don't live here.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this like a 2 year old playing hardball with mommy and then bragging to his 1 year old sister?

Amherst is nothing without Umass, most understand this, a few deny it and pretend it is the other way around.

The cutest part is the awkward respect for a politician, like a politician can fix anything but their income.

Anonymous said...

Amherst-UMASS= Greenfield

Larry Kelley said...

At least they're smart enough to have a Mayor/Council form of government.

Anonymous said...

I have a some issues with the idea that UMass needs to "pay its share".

The first being that UMass is woefully underfunded by the state. Students already pay a higher percentage of the cost at UMass than they should have to. Any raise in regards to what UMass has to pay the town will surely be passed on to the students. And its not right.

Amherst needs to consider what it would be without UMass. Students, alumni, parents and visitors carry many of Amherst's small businesses no their backs. UMass students work at these business and contribute to local organizations across the town by way of volunteer hours and monetary donations. Just today UMass students were going door to door as part of Shelter Sunday. The reason Amherst has so much to offer compared to other towns nearby is because UMass set up shop here.

UMass is very much the hand that feeds Amherst. Amherst is a great home for UMass. I would hope Amherst's leaders would realize that by going after UMass for more cash, they are going after the students and that's not right.

Larry Kelley said...

Umass has a total of about 28,000 students. If the town instituted a surcharge of $25 per student, that would instantly raise $700,000 that could instantly go towards hiring more First Responders and putting away a few bucks for the desperately needed new Fire Station.

And I'm pretty sure the average student spends more than that token amount on coffee or beer every month.

Back 15 years ago Finance Director Nancy Maglione wished to enact a $100 per student surcharge, so I think I'm being generous.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how it could be unreasonable for UMass to pay the cost of the services they receive. No one is asking for a penny more.

Anonymous said...

Good point Larry, the perm residents could pay like $100 and get the same. Or you could pay for it all. Isn't fun just assigning expenses to other people? So much easier than working for money.

Just stop this silly arguement and privatize they system and everyone will pay their fair share, like,at any busness. If there is a demand for ambulances, the person that needs it will pay. You point out in just about every post that the government systems fail us, and then you ask for more.

Larry Kelley said...

UMass has its own police force, better staffed and better equipped than APD. Yet APD still deals with the 40% of undergrads who live off campus.

UMass has NO fire department and relies completely on AFD, which this year costs Amherst taxpayers $5 million. And easily 25% of their budget goes toward dealing with on campus students. Do the math.

Why should the state completely fund police protection for on campus students but not fire/EMS?

So I don't care if UMass pays more to the town for that vital service and then passes it on to the students, or the students pay the town directly through a surcharge.

Just pay the piper baby.

Anonymous said...

Umass students subsidize the entire town, employ the most people (according to you).

It just does not sound right to preach that folks should bite the hand that feeds them, simply because you think they will take it. It just sounds like - I want, I want, I want, to not have to pay my own way.

Do the math, the guy above wrote that Amherst - Umass = Greenfield. I think he was being generous. People can afford to live in Greenfield.

Plus Larry, Umass students that live off campus have another status, they are called Amherst residents - they are equal to you - perhaps even superior because they are younger and have more life ahead of them (you know just a little less than your kids which are important enough for the community to invest even more in than these adult residents). The fact that they are students is irrelevant. There are GCC students living in Amherst, there are University of Pheonex students living in Amherst. There are quite a bit of homeless people living in Amherst. The parents of Amherst cost the community the most of all and they never pay their full share.

Your model of assigning expenses to other parties endlessly, makes for endless conflict and endless work. You should do the math on that. There are so many more zeros than your hotel room fee issue.