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(High) School Funding

Last year, we touched in the topic of the College’s decision to give $250,000 to Mount Greylock High School. Other (anonymous!) alums had similar concerns. It now turns out that this may not have been a one time gift. iBerskires quoted School Committee Chairman Robert Petricca as saying:

“I think we’d like to avoid an override [i.e., an increase in local property taxes]. I think an override would be phenomenally difficult. Once we get a better sense of what the constituencies in the school are going to do, we’ll talk to Williams College about what they would consider.”

The college, he said, “was very generous to us last year.”

Very generous indeed. There is nothing wrong with Petricca not wanting to pay higher taxes. There is nothing wrong with the nice people in Williamstown not wanting to pay higher taxes. But I have a problem with the College donating money so that Petricca and his friends can keep their taxes low.

This would be fine if the College had infinite resources but, for some reason, they keep asking me for money. Anytime that the College devotes resources to Mount Greylock High School, there are fewer resources for .

Also note that Economics Professor Ralph Bradburd is a member of the school committee. I think that it is marvelous that professors like Bradburd actively participate in local affairs. [Full Disclosure: Bradburd was my professor for ECON 251 almost 20 years ago.] Yet there is still a potential for conflict here between the interests of Williams as an institution and the interests of the particular individuals who currently run it. Perhaps Petricca has good reason to believe that the College will come through again this year.

President Schapiro addresses this topic in the current Alumni Review, but it does not seem to be available on-line for linking.

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#1 Comment By Eric Smith ’99 On March 5, 2004 @ 2:54 pm

From what I have seen of donating to Williams, you can specify where you want the money to go. If you don’t specify otherwise, it just goes to “general” which is pretty much whatever the college deems appropriate at any given time.

In this case, I am not sure if you could specifically add that you want the money to be used for “general but nothing outside of the school”, but you could certainly specify that it should go towards one specific area in the school.
That said, I don’t know how much they actually follow that. In my own experience, donations made to specific parts of the school have been followed through with, but I can in no way say if that is the norm or not since I don’t know enough about it.

Also, couldn’t this issue be argued along the same lines as a raise for profs? Instead of giving them the money outright, which would be taxed directly and they would still have the property taxes to pay – they can do what they did and help keep property taxes lower for the profs, effectively giving them that money that they would have had to pay otherwise – AND doing so for the local community as well.
I don’t know if Williams has much problem with the town/gown conflicts that other schools have, but this sort of action could go a long way to remedying any sort of disagreements the two may have.