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UMass will pay $185K yearly to Amherst schools

  • UMass Amherst campus Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism—Ben Barnhart/UMass Amherst



Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

AMHERST — Town schools will receive an influx of about $185,000 annually for the next three years from the University of Massachusetts as part of a revised strategic partnership agreement with the town.

University and Amherst officials announced late Monday that a revised deal, which expired last July 1 but continues to be negotiated, will address the cost of educating K-12 children in Amherst schools who live in tax-exempt housing at UMass. Most of these children are with university-affiliated families residing at the North Village Apartments on North Pleasant Street.

Determining this payment to the schools is an important step in updating the previous town-gown agreement, signed in December 2015 by then-interim Town Manager David Ziomek and UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

Under the previous deal, UMass was obligated to pay $120,000 a year related to “educating K-12 students who live in tax-exempt housing.”

Nancy Buffone, associate vice chancellor for university relations, said in a statement that the interests of UMass and the town are woven together, especially when it comes to education.

“Schools play a vital role in our community and reflect our shared values and a strong commitment to the power of education,” Buffone said.

The new three-year arrangement follows an independent study conducted by the UMass Donahue Institute, which explored different funding formulas in a report presented to the Amherst Select Board in fall 2018.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said resolving this aspect of the partnership gives clarity to school budgeting. “This seemed to be a fair number that both sides could agree on,” Blaguszewski said.

Superintendent Michael Morris and school finance chief Douglas Slaughter are incorporating this source of funding into the budgets for the Amherst public schools — three elementary schools and the regional schools, where students from Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett are educated.

Morris said ongoing partnerships with UMass, including with the College of Education, have been beneficial to both over the years, and that the UMass money will support vital classes and programs for students.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship,” Morris said.

The money from UMass will be distributed into the two budgets based on an estimate of the historical percentage of students in tax-exempt housing in the elementary and district schools, Morris said. The bulk of the money, about $170,000, will go to the elementary schools, with about $15,000 going to the regional schools.

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said getting to an agreement on the schools is important to the overall deal.

“Negotiations continue on other aspects of the strategic partnership,” Bockelman said.

The rest of the partnership will address other matters, including payments for fire protection, ambulances and other services the town provides to UMass, as well as ensuring a share of the occupancy taxes generated at the UMass Hotel are provided to the town.

Residential development

UMass and the town reached the agreement as North Village and the Lincoln Apartments are set to be torn down later this year to make way for new apartments at each site.

UMass is in the process of relocating the families at North Village.

Recently, UMass began soliciting proposals from private developers to handle the work. The UMass Building Authority, in conjunction with the campus, has hired commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank, headquartered in New York, to manage the competitive procurement process.

The company will identify qualified developers interested in the project and then solicit final proposals, with a goal of selecting a developer this spring and having construction commence in fall 2020.

The development of around 1,200 beds is projected to open beginning in fall 2022 and will replace North Village, originally constructed as temporary modular housing in 1971, and Lincoln Apartments, originally built in 1958.