Princeton is being sued by the locals to pay its property taxes. So what did go wrong? According to the plaintiffs, Princeton earns tons of money and uses buildings for commercial uses and does not pay taxes. Taxing Princeton will lower the property tax.
Hmmm… I do agree on fairness. If certain buildings or facilities are absolutely used for commercial purposes than Princeton should pay the taxes. However, would the taxes really help the city though? I am not so confident about that tax money being used well by the government. Government is not known for efficiency and there are dead weight losses of taxes. Also, Princeton has brought tremendous prestige and academic rigor to the city. That should not be looked at lightly. The spill over of a great academic institute is tremendous. The city can learn from the brightest and get help from them as well. I sure wish that I lived next to a great school.
So is Princeton off the hook? Not really. Having gone to Duke, I cannot deny that there is some university’s arrogance towards the city. It is a top school and it is the largest employer in the city. However, that does not give an excuse not to contribute more to the community. It really broke my heart that Durham was plagued by poor schools when it had one of the best universities in the US. It was really frustrating when Dukies did not do anything and instead were busy partying or minding their own business when many Durham neighborhoods were falling apart. The good news is that it has gotten better. From undergrad to grad school, my time there, I saw more civic engagement and efforts to bridge the gap between Duke and Durham. I am sure Princeton is also doing its fair share but it may need to reach out more.
I am highly doubtful that taxing the school will bring much needed change. I think it is a critical time to reflect more about the school’s commitment to the city and crank the effort to be an extraordinary citizen of the city. I pray that things are resolved amicably and efficiently.