Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hey student, stop breathing 

Here's a fun story with just one thing missing. �See if you can figure it out.
The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

Mayor David Cicilline said the fee would raise between $6 million and $8 million a year for the city, which is facing a $17 million deficit.

If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

The proposal is still in its early stages. But it has riled some students, who say it would unfairly saddle them with the city's financial woes and overlook their volunteer work and other contributions, including money spent in restaurants, bars and stores.

...Cities often look for revenue from universities to compensate for their tax-exempt status, and many schools already make voluntary payments to local governments. Providence's four private schools _ Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design _ agreed in 2003 to pay the city nearly $50 million over 20 years.

The idea of a student head tax has been floated before in other cities, generally to start discussions about collecting money from universities in lieu of taxes.
I believe that "floated idea" has another name, not sure, think it starts with "black" and ends in "mail". � The article notes that this shakedown does not take in students at public schools. �The reason the mayor's office gives for this tax is that their property isn't taxed. �Yes, because they are tax exempt as non-profits.

Most universities do "economic impact statements" of what kinds of revenues are brought into the towns or cities in which they reside. �When we last did one at SCSU, it was estimated that we were responsible for about 3% of the local economy. �(St. Cloud is about $7 billion in local production.) �Our students are not as well off as those at Brown or PC (Johnson and Wales is a school for the hospitality industry; those students may or may not be from upper income families) and at 25,000 students Brown probably does even more. �Are there additional costs of having higher education in your town from, say, a furniture manufacturer? �Probably so. �But are there additional benefits? �Can people in the city use the university library? �Attend cultural events on campus? �Those benefits are hard to capture in a benefit-cost story.

I suspect the reason for the tax is that it's easy to do.

Oh, and the missing part? �Click the link and read the story again. �Which party is this mayor a member of? �