Letter: How About a Community Impact Fee for Our Colleges and University?


Photo: umass.edu

I attended a meeting organized by District 4 Town Councilors, Pam Rooney and Jennifer Taub on March 17. After a presentation about finances by Councilor Andy Steinberg (at large), I suggested exploring if there could be a new revenue stream by establishing a Community Impact Fee, comparable to the one that several towns and cities have with cannabis businesses. In those cases, there is a 3% fee on retail sales, to mitigate the impact caused by retail cannabis sales, including extra police required, parking, crime, and more.

Though some towns have stopped imposing that fee, as some cannabis businesses are less negatively impactful than predicted, in Amherst there is a definite impact from our major industry, private and public colleges and universities. Our over-the-top housing crisis, deteriorating roads, diminished neighborhoods, extra policing, and ambulance services are part of the true cost of being host to colleges and universities whose students make up half our population.

On top of that, there is the impact on the town of such an overwhelming demographic of part time residents, making the town ever more unpopular with families, even as we build an extraordinary library and new elementary school. And the grand plan for our elementary schools clearly illustrates our declining portion of young families.

Can there be a legal way to create such a Community Impact Fee on our colleges and universities? The current rate of PILOT and gifts are surprisingly sub-par, compared with most comparable towns with large and/or prestigious higher education businesses. And rest assured, they are businesses. Even way back when I started my 23 years at UMass, the common administrative terminology for students was “customers.”

This is an idea worth exploring. The rationale for such a fee was clearly made in the world of cannabis. And the wear and tear on our infrastructure and services is not nearly covered by current PILOT payments. The univeristy and colleges are tax exempt, but their discounted contribution isn’t fair or sustainable. They should better support the town that supports them.

Ira Bryck

Ira Bryck has lived in Amherst since 1993, ran the Family Business Center for 25 years, hosted the “Western Mass. Business Show” on WHMP for seven years, now coaches business leaders, and is a big fan of Amherst’s downtown.

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1 thought on “Letter: How About a Community Impact Fee for Our Colleges and University?

  1. I strongly support Bryck’s idea. I’ve written short comments in the past particularly pertaining to the condition of our roads. The commercial traffic serving the institutions on a regular basis adds to the faculty, staff, and student traffic.

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