Thursday, January 14, 2016

Too Expensive?

Amherst College is the #1 landowner in town

Amherst is in the top 3% statewide for highest property tax rates at $21.22/$1,000 landing in the top ten of over 350 municipalities ( #9).

The main problem with our little college town is we are more than half-owned by tax exempt education institutes: Amherst College our #1 landowner, followed by UMass/Amherst the flagship of higher education in the state, and of course the "I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can" little college that could, Hampshire College.

And the town itself is in the top four tax-exempt landowners with its extensive conservation, recreation and APR property.

How profitable would an airline be if a little more than half their passengers were "non revenue" free flights from employees or their friends and family?

And it's only going to get worse.  Much worse.  Looming on the immediate horizon are four -- count 'em FOUR -- major building projects, that all told could approach $100 million in total costs.

Yes, one-tenth of a Billion.

Pretty safe bet at this point the School Committee will chose a Wildwood School plan that includes a combined mega-school to replace both Wildwood and Fort River, costing between $61 and $66 million.

Thus taxpayers will be faced with an Override vote for Amherst's 50% share of that this coming November.

The Jones Library recently chose an architect for their expansion/renovation that could cost upwards of $40 million, with Amherst taxpayeers covering half that.

And it's beginning to look like the new Fire Station and DPW building -- with no state reimbursements -- will not come in at the "placeholder" price of $20 million each Finance Director Sandy Pooler postulated a year ago.

In other words before you go spending the money saved by low gas/oil prices, think about what your property tax bill is going to look like starting a very few years from now, let alone the outrageous amount it is already.

Click to enlarge/read

 Numbers for four major construction  projects given to Joint Capital Planning Committee March, 2015 (note how far off School and Library projects were)


Anonymous said...

Your $100,000,000 estimate is just the borrowed amount.
What is the full payback amount when decades of interest on the debt are added in?

It is funny (sad, not ha-ha) how a small group of people in some committee or other can make financial decisions that affect all current and future tax paying citizens.

Thank God we have a large body of citizen Town Meeting Members to vote this excessive figure down!

Oh wait, A small group of Charter Commissioners is getting ready to eliminate that!

We're screwed!

Larry Kelley said...

Take a look at Northampton's tax rate.

Oh yeah, they have a Mayor/Council.

Anonymous said...

Looking at this list one thing is clear, you get what you pay for. You want strong schools and great quality of life like Longmeadow (which has an even higher tax rate) you have to pay for it. You want schools and a town like Belchertown you can have a lower tax rate. You just get less town.

Anonymous said...

there is only a negative impact of having tax-exempt entities like UMass, AC, HC IF some other tax revenue entity was there instead. Right? Amherst has (or had) other land to develop in order to raise such revenue, but has again and again chose otherwise. I don't see that our limited business tax revenue problem can be attributed as you propose...

Anonymous said...

Belchertown doesn't look all that bad to me. At least they don't waste tax money on stained glass windows...

Larry Kelley said...

Umass purchased Frat Row and a few other properties along North Pleasant Street, and not too long ago a house on Fearing Street (abutting their Lincoln Apartments) thus taking them off the tax rolls, even though they were residential.

And the tax rate is the same for residential or commercial.

So it's a drag on us either way.

Kevin said...

Those numbers are so ridiculous, the way you present them. Any financial director would laugh. Or cry. First of all, there is a certain amount of state aid (i.e. state income tax), which has nothing to do with the property tax rate. And the balance is from a bond issue, paid over a number of years. With a little luck, there will be enough growth in Amherst to make that affordable. This kind of Chicken Little "the sky is falling" ranting destroys hope. And we need hope.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at Greenfield's tax rate, and they have a Mayor. Be careful what you
wish for.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at Shelburne, and yes, no Mayor/council. Does it really make a difference?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately anon: 1:17, Town Meeting usually votes the budget up, not down. At least in my experience, as a member for the last way too many years.

Anonymous said...

Go to State College ,PA and see the difference. Amherst has a bunch of whiners, cranky old men and old people who hate having a university as the largest employer. They have no community pride, and are opposed to any development. Too few businessmen control the whole town. Have for years and are raking it in, with little competition.

Larry Kelley said...

Ageism much?

And we also have businesswomen.

Anonymous said...

Key work is "cranky". You got that old man? To claim there are businesswomen that are in the power guard in Amherst is laughable. Sad, but true. Not many real, growing companies in Amherst. Do you ever wonder why? Go to Worcester and Lowell, where new businesses are encouraged to settle near colleges. Not given a hard time by idiots with camera's at town hall.

Anonymous said...

With all the money that goes to the schools- these elementary schools should not be in the condition they are in!

The open checkbook method isn't working- Fluff (personnel and programs) has become more important than essentials

BTW- Out of district parents choosing to send their children here should have no voice in the choice of school plan.

Anonymous said...

How the town compares to others is interesting, but taxes should always be compared to zero, when the money is not taken. Using the logic of where you stand relative to others doing this thing that is constantly progressing up overlooks the government's main passive tactic for taking over every aspect of the economy and decision making, baby steps. Using baby steps we can get all the way up to 999/1,000 on taxes and still be justified relative to other towns as long as we ignore history.

We justified public schools because they were a value. Now they are not, but we no longer question their place, only how fast to increase their size.

The taxes are too high for those without kids and the school fees are far too low for those with kids. The real issue will not even be discussed. The taxes will go up.

Anonymous said...

Why are young people especially Amherst young people so stupid?