My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What Should U Mass Pay?

There has been a lot of discussion this week, which I'm sure will continue, about what the appropriate contribution should be from U Mass to the town/schools once Marks Meadow is no longer used as an elementary school (because U Mass has always said that they don't need to pay the per pupil costs for the 50ish children who attend Amherst schools but live in tax-free housing since they are providing a "free" building). So, I did some looking for what the precedent is for other universities in terms of payment for educating children who live in tax-free housing, and found a very recent article from New Jersey. It seems like Rutgers worked out a very interesting approach with their local school district, which perhaps could be a model for the type of negotiating Larry Shaffer and the superintendent should do with U Mass.

Piscataway school district, Rutgers reach lawsuit settlement agreement

By JARED KALTWASSER • Staff Writer • April 30, 2009

PISCATAWAY — The township school district will receive an $80,000 credit and preferential treatment from Rutgers University under the terms of a settlement agreement reached between the two entities.

The deal resolves a lawsuit in which the school district challenged the tax-exempt status of Rutgers' graduate student housing in the township. The school district contended that it was unfair for the Rutgers buildings to be tax exempt because many of the Rutgers graduate students who live in the apartments have school-age children who attend the public school district. About 65 children living in the Rutgers graduate housing currently attend Piscataway public schools.

A state tax court upheld the tax-exempt status of the buildings in a ruling last August. The school district, with board member Russell Stoddard acting as the plaintiff, appealed that ruling.

The appeal is now resolved with the agreement, which became effective April 1 and was formally approved April 16 by the Board of Education.

"I think it is a real positive thing for the school community, and to be honest with you I think it's one of the proudest accomplishments of the Board of Education," Superintendent of Schools Robert Copeland said.

Under the one-year deal, which runs through March 31, 2010, the school district can use $80,000 worth of services and facility rentals at Rutgers free of charge. The district anticipates it will use those credits on a variety of items, including holding graduation ceremonies at the Rutgers Athletic Center, using a Rutgers pool for the district's summer camp program and swimming team, and sending staff to professional development activities at Rutgers.

In addition, the agreement sets up a work-study site in the school district, which will allow Rutgers students who qualify for the Federal Work-Study program to work in the school district and be paid by the federal government.

The agreement also calls for the township district to receive what school district officials are calling "most-favored district" status. Essentially, that means the Piscataway School District will get first choice when Rutgers programs or facilities are made available to public or private schools. The agreement does not, however, negate existing contracts between Rutgers and other school districts.

The agreement states that Rutgers will advocate before the governor and state legislature for financial relief for the school district to help cover the cost of the children living in graduate housing.

The agreement also called for Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick to issue a public statement acknowledging the Board of Education's role in the community and ask residents to vote in the April 21 school board election. McCormick did so in a letter to the editor published April 21 in the Home News Tribune.

The agreement calls for Rutgers to supply, free of charge, a head football or basketball coach to speak at a Piscataway Township Education Foundation Event.

"We are pleased that the matter has been resolved amicably without further litigation," said Sandra Lanman, director of public relations at Rutgers.

Attorney David B. Rubin, who represented the school district, said the one-year agreement is an experiment, but it was one with great potential.

"Sometimes you are adversaries with somebody, but then you shake hands and make a deal and an agreement and you move on," he said.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I hope you send it to the town manager. You should also send it to the select board in hope that they will encourage him to pursue the matter.

Anonymous said...

Does Amherst College and Hampshire have student housing that is exempt from real estate taxes that houses Amherst public school students?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 7:39 - good idea ... I'll do so!

Anonymous 9:57 - because AC and HC are colleges, not universities, they don't have graduate students, so they don't have the same sort-of population (e.g., undergraduates typically don't have school-aged kids so there isn't a need for big family housing). In addition, AC and HC are private -- the deal with the tax-free housing is because U Mass is the state university. So, there isn't an equivalence for either of these schools.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I find annoying about this dispute: what we're really talking about is which pool of public money should pay for public education -- part of the UMass budget or a combination of state and local aid already designated for schools? If this doesn't bring home the absurdity of local funding for school districts, I don't know what does. It's all coming from our tax dollars in the end. When you ask UMass to pay for local public education, what you're really doing is letting state legislators off the hook -- they won't increase funding to UMass as a result, and they'll feel less pressure to increase local aid in the general education budget. It's a very self-defeating approach to the dual problem of under-funded elementary education and under-funded public higher education.

On another point: Hampshire and especially Amherst own a significant amount of tax-exempt property. Regardless of what it's used for, and whether school-aged children live there, it's property that's not taxed for the benefit of the town. To suggest that we should only focus on UMass, and then only on the property in which school-aged children live, runs counter to how we've traditionally thought about property-tax-funded schools. If we're going to start looking critically at tax-exempt property, we should look at all of it, not just UMass graduate housing.

Better still, this should cause us to rethink how we fund public education, and whether our quirky property tax-based system really makes sense at all.

(On a completely separate note: Catherine, while I find your blog always interesting and informative, it drives me crazy that you cut and paste whole articles rather than simply providing excerpts with links to the original sources. Apart from the copyright concerns, I'd just like to be able to click through to the original. Thanks.)

Anonymous said...

Great points anon 11:50. And by the way Catherine, both hc and ac have faculty housing on campus and i know hc has children in them and anot sure regarding ac but there used to be children from there attending public schools as my chilkdren went to school with them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could just appreciate what she is proposing and work on one college at a time. If we stopped nitpicking and tried to work together we could get farther!

I like that you post the whole columns. As long as you keep giving credit where credit is due I say go for it! More people are likely to read it instead of following a link.
Thanks for continuing the search for ways to help our schools and the budget.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response... "(e.g., undergraduates typically don't have school-aged kids so there isn't a need for big family housing)"

I was actually thinking about faculty who live in college-owned housing (eg Hitchcock Road, Orchard Street, President's House) that does not pay real estate tax... or does it?

anon @ 9:57 AM

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 11:50 - U Mass has ALWAYS said the reason they don't contribute to the per pupil costs is that they let us use the MM building for free. So, that is what will now change, and hence I think should be our FIRST focus (as opposed to taking on perhaps the very reasonable goal but much longer-term and broader of changing how we pay for public education). There are kids living in faculty housing at AC (I don't know about HC), but according to the finance director for the schools (Rob Detweiler) this is NOT the same issue as the tax-free graduate housing (I believe there are taxes paid on these houses but I'll confirm). But the key issue here is not just that there is a lot of land in Amherst that is tax-free (sure, that's true, and that's why we need more economic development in places in which we CAN build taxable businesses) -- it is that if U Mass graduate housing didn't exist, those kids who live in tax-able houses/apartments and we'd get money for educating their kids. We don't know, and this is the issue we are raising (as happened in NJ). I'll make sure to also post liniks to articles from now on for those who like to read the original source (as you suggest) -- but I think many like reading the whole article in one place -- I do always give credit to the author/source -- so I'm going to keep posting the whole piece.

Anonymous 12:04 - see my response above. This seems to be a different issue in terms of getting taxes.

Anonymous 1:44 - thanks ... and I certainly agree that all colleges/universities should be asked to help our schools (and benefit from us having good schools). But I think the U Mass issue is quite different, since (a) they are MUCH bigger than the other schools, (b) they are the only ones with tax-free graduate student housing, and (c) they are now getting the space back that was always described as a trade for NOT giving the district $$!

Anonymous 9:57/2:37 - as I note above, this seems to be different (according to Rob Detweiler), and I'm not sure of exactly why. I'll check and post something next week.

LarryK4 said...

Umass should also pay the 4% local Hotel/Motel tax for the Campus Center Hotel (and now the state is talking about increasing it to 6 or 8%).

A study/report by State Senator Stan Rosenberg a few years back concluded it would generate $70,000 annually to Amherst.

And yes Amherst College, tax exempt owner of 'The Lord Jeff Inn' always paid it up until they closed (around $40-K per year)

Umass also has a Police Force larger than Amherst PD (and very late last night I witnessed our PD dealing with an awful lot of what looked like, Umass students) but NO Fire Department.

Amherst taxpayers fund APD and AFD almost equally at around $5 million each annually.

The rookie Chancellor Dr. Holub (who lives in a LARGE grand, tax-exempt house) has two children in the Amherst Public Schools to the tune of $14,410 each for town taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if the chancellor and the town manager sup together???

Anonymous said...

Umass also has resident advisors/house parents (not sure the proper term) employed by residence life. They live in dorms, sometimes with their families and their children also attend Amherst schools tax-free.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there's something I'm missing here, but isn't it a right of every child to receive free public education? Homeless kids also don't pay property taxes, but of course no one in their right mind would think about denying them their right to receive education. Don't the kids who live at the graduate housing at UMass have the same right? It's hard for me to see on which basis the town could demand UMass to pay something for these kids education, but as I said in the beginning, maybe I'm missing something here.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to see on which basis the town could demand UMass to pay something for these kids education, but as I said in the beginning, maybe I'm missing something here.reading the main post if your confounded

LarryK4 said...

The airlines call them “non-revs”: company employees who fly for free, but they fly “stand by”.

So if there’s only one seat remaining on a commercial jet seating 300 and an off-duty pilot is hoping to hitch a ride to see his girlfriend but a paying customer shows up, he’s out of luck.

The airline gives the last seat to the paying customer—you know the one who generates revenue.

Now if 20 or 30 of those 300 airline passengers are "non-revs" it’s not such a problem (especially since any good company wants to keep employees happy) ;BUT if 160 of them are non-revs then you have a problem (especially with the price of jet fuel.)

In Amherst OVER half the property is owned by tax exempts: Amherst College, Umass and the People’s Republic itself (in that order). That is a problem. Yet our Select Board was recently fawning over a new Open Space Recreation Plan that would continue to take land off the tax rolls. That too is a problem.

“Free Public education” is very expensive. Almost everybody has to contribute for the common good, or it becomes unsustainable.

Anonymous said...

An additional aspect of the Amherst conversation on education that I find somewhat unseemly is that we seem to be fixated on state aid, state aid that more immediately needs to go to school systems in communities in trouble, like Springfield, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Brockton, to name a few, NOT Amherst.

I recently prosecuted a man who had randomly attacked women in the past decade or so, first in Arlington, then in Worcester, attacks that were straight out of a Hitchcock film. When it came time in 2007 for him to get out of the state prison in Gardner, and he had nowhere to live and no family support, where was the only place he could get a placement in a homeless shelter in the state? Not Amherst, not Hadley, not Worcester, not Boston, not Acton, but Springfield, where he then proceeded to attack a woman on the street in August 2008 after about 10 months collecting cans in the city.

In other words, some communities, and not others, have become intentional dumping grounds for the most troubled, problematic people in the state. Try raising kids in such an environment.

I'm sure that someone will point out the impracticality of this, but I wish we could find a way to get off the teat of state aid, and simply decide to pay our own bills with the enormous treasure, both in and outside of our educational institutions, we have right here in town.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

An intriguing solution would be for Amherst College and Hampshire College to put up a sum to match the money raised from a successful override. That would introduce an interesting new element to the politics in town.

The question is: just how badly do the administrations of Hampshire and Amherst want good public schools here? Or can every faculty member at the two colleges afford to send his/her kids to private schools?

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

Ten years ago, in the wake of the Worcester Fire tragedy, when I helped to raise $45,000 for three thermal imaging cameras for AFD both Amherst College and Hampshire College donated $5,000.

Umass gave us a "buy one get the second one at half-price" coupon, but they did not contribute a dime toward either the full-price or half-price one (yet sent out press releases suggesting they had)

Umass is the main impact on our Police, Fire, and Education services.

amherstmom said...

Catherine: As you know the “UMass/compensation to the town” conversation is of great interest to me as I have spoken about it in SC meetings since February, wherein I asked whether we had any written statement from UMass on what they would do with the building if we closed MM. No statement was ever produced by the town, the District or the School Committee.

Many things were bantered around in March and April and even May, that we (the district) might get to keep the MM building for the alternative High School, or me might use it as Central Office, or in the May 5th forum from Larry Schaffer, reading his agreement written in 2007 by the Former UMass Chancellor Mr. Lombardi, which states “the town MAY be compensated by the University if MM closes to build a new school”.

I am not happy that we (the town, the School Committee and the District) by allowing the vote to be taken to close MM on May 19th, not because I am a whiney MM parent, but because I am a taxpayer. We have effectively given UMass the only bargaining chip we will ever have with them to receive compensation for educating UMass students’ children in exchange for the massive tax-free land that UMass sits upon in our tax base-starved town.

Now to be fair to the SC, I do understand that we may never have gotten any kind of an agreement with Chancellor Holub (smart man waiting for us to shoot ourselves in the foot), even if we postponed the vote until June or even Sept., but what did we gain by taking the vote now! There was no pressure from 2009-2010 budget approval standpoint as the school closes in the 2010-2011 budget-year. And as far as getting reserve money from our town fiscal committee by showing the Town we were willing to give something up that shows a continuous savings over the next few years, well, that could have been done by working a plan on paper that shows Mark’s Meadow closing without actually saying it, voting on it and giving away the farm. It would have allowed us some time to try and get a legally binding agreement with UMass on paper without actually saying, “Hey UMass here is your building back, we can’t take the time to strike a deal with you, I guess we will just have to suffer the financial consequences, besides we have tons of money in our town reserves to take care of our kids. We might even have enough to make it through 2010.”
I don't have a lot of faith that the Town Management will ever be able to swing a deal to be compensated the amount of money that the Mark’s Meadow was worth, nor do I think that the Chancellor will fully realize what a good recruiting tool MM has been for UMass grad students and Faculty.

And by the way… There are currently 50 plus UMass grad students’ children at MM ALONE. There are probably another 50 to 80 kids who live in Graduate housing or are residence life employees’ kids that are enrolled in the other elementary schools as well as ARHS & ARMS. So we are talking about upwards of $650,000 in free education that is given at this point to UMass employees and students by the state. Wow aren’t we being a little generous. Yes, I know I am only talking about UMass because frankly the grad student enrollment at UMass has 1600 more students than both the private colleges undergrad enrollment combined. Looking at big picture, not picking on UMass.

amherstmom said...

With that said... Do we know what The Commonwealth of Mass precedence is for compensating towns for public school use for children living on tax-exempt land? Meaning do any of the following schools, which have grad housing on tax-exempt property pay for their students’ children to be educated in the public schools?
UMass Amherst has 5800 grad students
UMass Boston has 3600 grad students
UMass Lowell has 2250 grad students
UMass Dartmouth has 1200 grad students
UMass Medical has 1000 grad students

Don’t you think someone should be looking into this? Perhaps the Town’s Finance Committee should see if this is an additional State revenue source we can acquire for 2010-2011… or the Town Manger, Stan Rosenberg, Ellen Story? I will make sure they all get this letter, along with the rest of the SC and the District leaders.


One more thing… The exchange for services deal mentioned in the NJ case. I like it, but we need to be really specific. Like how about getting the Isenberg School to do an admin efficiency study on the town and the schools, sort through our extensive data on programs and find out what works and what doesn’t. And then send our Admin staff, both the town and the district, back to school getting tuition waivers from UMass to these employees in order to bring our offices into the 21st century, even though we are ten years too late, it could make a difference. It has also been mentioned we are having consultants to help us in redistricting. Why not get help from the School of Ed and the School of Management from UMass in exchange for educating the children of UMass and instead of paying for consultants out of our measly school budget?

Tracy Hightower

Abbie said...

If you read the article closely,

Rutgers did not provide any money. They provided access and other intangibles (nothing core or all that important to me...).

I just don't get how everyone (seems like everyone) seems to think UMass (a PUBLIC state funded entity (still a little bit)) would be able to give us cash. Where do you think it would come from? There are basically 4 sources of funds UMass has- state (i.e. our taxes), tuition and fees, donations, and indirect costs on grants. So from which of those sources do you folks think UMass could dip into for Amherst public schools? Really, I ask that you identify where the $$ would come from?

To me its a waste of time going after direct money from UMass...If you think you can make an argument that Amherst is worse off than towns of the same size because of UMass then make the argument to the legislature (those that hold the purse strings to the $$). That means Rosenberg or Story.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to get the state legislature on this and take away the "local option" that relies on our local campus' generosity. We gain a lot from these figures:
UMass Amherst has 5800 grad students
UMass Boston has 3600 grad students
UMass Lowell has 2250 grad students
UMass Dartmouth has 1200 grad students
UMass Medical has 1000 grad students

Should we use these not only to find out what other campuses do, but how other towns may be struggling? Have those towns contacted their state senator and rep? Should we attempt to create a coalition of towns who might need a supplemental school budget formula from the state?

LarryK4 said...

In 2008 the University of Vermont (a state institution) paid host city Burlington $456,000; this year $600,000 and next year $912,000 simply for fire protection.

The agreement also calls for a closer working relationship between the police forces of the city and University that may result in joint patrols of neighborhoods bordering the University.

The five-year pact (unlike our “strategic agreement with Umass) ALSO generates additional payments of $180,000 for public works impacts.

Thus, in 2010 the University of Vermont (9,000 undergrads, 1,350 grad students) will pay Burlington (population 39,000 with one-third of all property tax exempt) $1,100,000 over TWICE what the University of Massachusetts (20,000 undergrads, 5,000 grad students) will pay Amherst (population 34,000, with one-half of all property tax exempt).

Of course Burlington, although not much bigger than the People’s Republic of Amherst, is a city with a more efficient Mayor/Council form of government.

And when it comes to hardball negotiations, a Mayor (unlike an unelected Town Mangler) makes ALL the difference.

amherstmom said...

Today's Gazette article about this subject.

http://www.gazettenet.com/2009/05/26/town-umass-stalemate-over-elementary-school-payments

Anonymous said...

Remind me again: Just what is the response of the Amherst Police Department when it gets a call for backup from UMass?

To remember what these riot scenes look like, just go to www.youtube.com and enter search words "UMass" and "riot".

I think that UMass is a citizen of this town, too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post recommending that we go through our legislators to seek funding to educate students who come from tax-exempt housing.

And, I don't buy the argument that UMass is a poor state school. They don't contribute to the town b/c they don't have to -- not b/c they don't have the money:

UMass just built/is building a recreation facility that is costing over 50 million dollars so that students can exercise in a more modern facility than the three(?) other facilities they already have.

Also, it would be interesting to find out how the mayor of Burlington negotiated such a good deal with UVM.

Abbie said...

Anon11:21

the money to build the rec facility is not funny money (nor is the $$ for any of the other buildings). It comes from the STATE (i.e. the legislature through a very long and painful process (tax or bond $), through fees that students pay, or with money donated from donors for that purpose.

I get the point about police and fire but that is SEPARATE from the school issue.

While I understand the point of trying to get $ from UMass for our schools, I just don't see that it is possible, let alone likely. And think it is a distraction from the things we ought to be discussing- like how do we agree to contracts that offer pay increases (everything included) that go above 2.5%, which is the MAXIMUM we should ever be offering. Even with an override (which I would vote for) this is always going to be the problem...This is the "STRUCTURAL" in the structural deficit we will face again and again, despite overrides. An override simply delays the next crisis...But if this is what folks want, an override every few years, then maybe that's ok.

LarryK4 said...

Actually Abbie the Recreation Center is being built exclusively with "student fees," and as recently as a year ago it was budgeted at $100 million (why I call it 'The Death Star'.)

But the very same students who will use the facility also impact our local town services, so why not divert some of those "student fees" to cover Amherst's basic overhead like education, police, fire and DPW.

We already "get $" out of Umass for town services via the five year "Strategic Agreement," only NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.

So it IS possible to get money out of Umass. You just need a negotiator who knows what the Hell they are doing and can exhibit chutzpah.

Anonymous said...

I work at UMass and we're all starving to death there. Essential things are not being done because allegedly there's no money for anything. There's no way UMass will give the town any cash.

Abbie said...

Larry,

give me examples of public universities giving money (I mean cash) in a systematic way to their local public school system. Put up or ...

It simply can't happen the way folks "believe" or "hope" it can...

Anonymous said...

What do you mean Larry Kelly? You silly goose.

Larry Shaffer is a very strong negotiator... just look at this quote!

"The town and the university are each other's best friends," Shaffer said. "We will have a conversation with them about this."

Pleasssse. I just think that The Chancellor is a GOOD negotiator and will not give up anything to the town or his employees. He is waiting for the economic dust to settle. Smart guy.

Unlike our impetuous leadership that blithely give away our schools.

Roger

amherstmom said...

Abbie: and Anon 2:35. I think you are missing the point Larry K and Roger are trying to make, which is our town makes decisions without fully reading the ramifications.

UMass may have no money NOW to give to our schools, however, there were plenty other negotiations blown prior to the giving away of MM.

It is not an easy business to run this town, but it would be a much better town if our leaders and elected officials were not made up of reactionaries and were more thoughtful with more business savvy, then we might have gotten something of what we needed for our schools.

for example: The Strategic Partnership agreement" signed in 2007 by Schaffer and the Former UMass Chancellor Lombardi

It says that if Mark's Meadow closes, all parties "will negotiate a new agreement in which the university MAY reimburse the town for a portion of the net costs of educating students living in university tax-exempt housing."

As Irv so aptly put it this "squishy" language does not obligate UMass to pay anything if Mark's Meadow closes. So how is that for strong business minded leadership on Mr. Shcaffers part or our legal department, who obviously missed that meeting? MAY...MAY is a month not a contract solidifier.

So what about Professional Development tuition waivers, free use of the university pools for our kids, free consulting and business training for our administrators? No real cash outlay but a savings to our town and schools' budgets if UMass provides services.

"You can't always get what you want, but if you TRY sometimes, you might find, you get what you need" Rolling Stones


Tracy Hightower

Megan Rosa said...

I had posted this on another topic which seems to have been forgotten and part of this is being talked about in this conversation, so I thought I would bring it here.

I am brainstorming a few thoughts here. They may not be realistic, but I am trying to come up with anything I can.

I have to agree about class size being smaller. Children really need to be able to understand what they are needing to learn. It is much easier to teach things right the first time, than to go back and reteach. Smaller class sizes will allow teaches the ability to do this.

Can we go to the colleges and find some grad students to also help within the classrooms, in place of or in conjunction with Paras? I am not sure if all schools have this, but at MM, there are student teachers in there all the time. Are there more ways to play around with this idea, that will help our budget?

What about having college students come in to do art projects, maybe in addition to limited regular art classes? If we had a art major come in and do a specific project with kids over a semester, that would give the kids more art time. This may be applied to music as well. I went to WW for the Art Forum they held in March and was completely impressed. The music I got to hear was amazing. If we can get creative projects into all the schools like this, it will enrich these children's lives!

I know this touches on contracts, but we need to find every penny we can, and also give these kids as much as we can. Times are tough and we need to be creative.

Are there parents who can set up after school clubs in each school? Alyssa Melnick does an amazing job with MM's Science Club, which concludes with the Science Fair. I am sure there are many more parents like her in all of our schools. Maybe curriculum could be reinforced in clubs like this. Clubs that could be run with funding from the parent groups, maybe.

Could this be done at the Regional level as well? (I don't know if it is already)

On another note. I am wondering about getting HS kids into classes at the colleges for AP classes. Is the main drawback to this the Trimester schedule?

What about looking into teachers and staff taking college classes, at local schools, for trainings and development, with tuition waivers?

This could be one more way the colleges can give back to our town, if they can't afford cash right now. Services could also help a lot!

So these may not be perfect, probably don't add up to $700K, may not be usable at all, but I am trying to find any solutions I can think of to help the situation. With the money as tight as it is, I really feel like we need to come up with as many plans as possible to try to keep things as close to what we have now. These kids deserve us trying really hard for them. I feel like we are at a time when we need to be looking out of the box. We can't have what we are used to, and it only looks worse for years to come. Lets find other ways to get the same, or better services to our kids!

Abbie said...

here's an idea- get UMass to sell some of its land on University to the developer who wants to put in 200 luxury apartments for students. This puts "tax-exempt" land back into the tax pool and the town would collect $X on the property tax (forever). Not to mention UMass would get some needed cash flow. This seems like a good faith win-win solution for everyone... Except the NIMBYs and what about the open space folks...If it could actually happen it would be interesting to sit back and watch the wrestling match commence btwn the two antagonistic groups (parents vs NIMBYs) and some folks would need to search their souls to see which side they'd pick...

Mike Jacques said...

Meg, I think your ideas / brainstorming are great. Abbie I definitely think UMass should sell the land on University and we should develop that area. Here is another thought, can UMass help us move MM thus saving about $150,000.00 more?? I know it probably can't be done for many reasons, but there it is.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Larry - thanks for the info ... seems to me like there are a number of ways in which U Mass could reasonably contribute to the town and schools.

Anonymous 8:25 - not sure of the intent of your post?!?

Anonymous 8:34 - seems like these kids should also be considered -- thanks for noting!

Anonymous 8:53 - I totally agree that all kids deserve an education -- and a free public education. I think the issue is that we don't receive funding from the state for the kids who live in U Mass housing ... and that is different than kids who live in NON-tax-free housing. This is particularly an issue since U Mass has always said they shouldn't pay for those kids since they gave us the MM building for free ... which now we may not have!

Anonymous 11:19 - yes!

Larry - exactly ... and when 52 of the 1300ish elementary kids are "non-paying," it does have an impact on the budget and the resources available to educate these (and all) kids.

Rich - a very intriguing idea ... and we can see already from how the economic stimulus money was distributed that Amherst did NOT receive much of this federal money. And I LOVE the idea of asking the colleges to match the funds raised in an override -- clever!

Larry - thanks for the info. U Mass of course has far, far more students than either of the other colleges, and is the only one with graduate students (and hence their kids). Again, this seems like a time for U Mass to step up -- and I still hope they do.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

AmherstMom/Tracy - thanks for the post -- and I've thought A LOT about the timing of the MM vote! Two points I'll make.

1. Even if U Mass never gives us a dime or gives us space ... it was costing us $700,000 a year to operate MM, and that is money we don't have and we don't need the space to educate all the kids. So, I'm still not sure what our bargaining point would be with U Mass -- give us money and take the MM building or else we'll continue to spend money we don't have and decimate the Amherst education? I'm just not sure how effective this is as a negotiating point! I think the bargaining element here is that U Mass should want to do the right thing, to be a good neighbor and to keep the schools strong as a recruitment tool for faculty/staff/students. So, giving us $$, or space, or services would be right, and appropriate, even if we aren't dangling "we'll get out of the MM building if you give us X" in front of them.

2. The FC very, very clearly said at repeated meetings that movement towards a plan, contemplation of a plan, discussion of a plan, etc., did NOT count as consensus towards major cost-efficiencies. So, we would NOT have gotten reserves for continuing to talk about closing MM ... the vote on May 19th was the LAST time we could vote (FC votes on reserve use this Thursday, May 28th) to get reserves, and my understanding is that they are going to give us a huge amount (basically what we would have saved by closing MM this year). So, yes, there was a big push to have consensus NOW, and not in a few months.

ALSO, my understanding is that there are towns in which the university pays to educate kids who live in tax-free housing (I think UVM pays Burlington, in fact). And I agree that this is something we should really push. I also agree that even if we can't get (a) $$, or (b) space, it would be good to get SOME things, and maybe we could brainstorm about what those could be. For example, Amherst College gives 30 "spaces" to ARHS students to take classes for FREE ... U Mass charges our high school students -- maybe they could give as many free classes as they have kids in the schools?!? I also think we might pay U Mass for things like using the Mullins Center for graduation -- maybe we could get this for free? Or maybe the head football/basketball coach could do a talk at an AEF fundraising dinner or something? I especially liked the Rutgers idea of having students get paid to tutor/work in the schools -- maybe they could supervise recess or tutor or shelve library books? Again, services could also be useful, particularly in these tight budget times.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses (more):


Abbie - I agree that U Mass is likely to not have much/any money. But that raises two issues -- first, if they don't have money, they might not be able to renovate MM, so maybe we could use the building for free UNTIL they have the money to renovate (and in the meantime, we could use it for other district space needs). Second, I'm totally glad to think about services ... that seems like a potential win/win (as I've brainstormed about above).

Anonymous 8:59 - very good idea ... can someone be in touch with Stan/Ellen?!?

Larry - thanks for the info ... seems like UVM does indeed feel a responsibility to help the town/schools ... I'd love to see the same from U Mass!

Amherst Mom 10:18 - thanks ... just posted that one on my blog!

Anonymous 11:01 - I'm not really getting your point here ... can you clarify?

Anonymous 11:21 - even if U Mass is "poor" (and I do know that all the colleges/universities are struggling), they could give us SPACE (e.g., to use MM as an alternative high school) OR they could give us services (e.g., free college classes, tutors, use of Mullins Center, etc.). I'm not asking for $$ ... I'm asking for SOMETHING.

Abbie - I agree that the contracts, as written, weren't sustainable ... unless we had an override. And there may be times in which an override is necessary -- but that is never something to "count on" ... I hope that closing MM is the first step in reducing the structural deficit. Getting something from U Mass would also help (e.g., if we could use the space, we could eliminate our utilities payment on some other district spaces). And we will also need to take a careful look at how we are spending limited resources (e.g., administrative costs, potential for adding larger fees for music/athletics, etc.).

Anonymous 2:35 - OK ... so how about SPACE? Or SERVICES? I'm really flexible.

Roger - I believe Larry S. is going to do his best to negotiate on behalf of the town/schools, and I certainly hope he's successful. I still don't see how the SC should, in fairness, hold onto MM and spend $700,000 we don't have to do so ... hence my vote.

Tracy - I wasn't on the SC when that agreement was signed ... and it was signed by a former superintendent ... so I can't do anything about the past (including the decision to spend $380,000 on two portables for MM that aren't being used as classrooms). But moving forward, I think we definitely need to think creatively about what U Mass can do, at little/no cost for them, to help the schools. You have some great ideas - and yes, these are ideas that may well be a win/win (for U Mass and the schools).

Anonymous said...

I have one question here; how and why is the amount saved by closing MM constantly being inflated?? I read in some report, somewhere, that the figure is $530,000. One wonders if by inflating this figure you somehow are inflating the decision to close this school??

Amherst Mom: You make so much sense in what you say. It is amazing that you are not being heard and even more amazing that the simple truth you speak can be so easily dismissed.

It took this same town 8 years to decide about a two tier parking lot and only a few months time to close a school!

LarryK4 said...

More like 25 years to decide on the 2 tier parking garage--and it should have been 3 tiers.

Welcome to the People's Republic--where NIMBY's like you rule.