Village looking to tax students
The South Orange Board of Trustees passed a resolution calling upon the New Jersey Assembly to levy “municipal services” fees on universities.
The village is seeking to offset the tax burden on its residents by imposing fees on Seton Hall students.
The resolution, adopted unanimously by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 21, asks the New Jersey Legislature to partially lift the tax-exempt status granted to academic institutions, particularly on college and university campuses, so that municipalities, such as South Orange, can charge universities on a per-student basis for services.
South Orange, in its resolution, has proposed setting the annual tax at $100 per full-time student and $50 per part-time student.
The resolution cites increases in the cost of providing not only police, fire and emergency medical services to the university and its students, but street lighting and road maintenance as well as reasons why municipalities should be allowed to tax universities to offset the burden borne by a town’s residents.
Because the resolution was passed after most Seton Hall students left for Christmas break, many who were interviewed by The Setonian were not aware of the proposed student tax. Many of those who had heard about the proposition oppose it.
“How about they (South Orange) put up more street lights and hire more police officers first,” Peter Capar, junior political science major, asked. “Then we’ll talk about taxing students.”
“It’s sketchy out there,” Capar added.
As a commuter, he said, he will not walk off-campus in South Orange after dark.
“There were muggings last semester in the morning when it was light out,” Capar said. “This isn’t a safe town to begin with.”
Sophomore diplomacy major Elizabeth Dudley said she, too, thought the proposed tax was uncalled for.
“South Orange does not have the right to tax (students) because South Orange does not benefit the students,” she said. “When South Orange benefits us, then they can tax us.”
Other students thought that they should not be forced to pay for things such as road maintenance or street lighting, although those things that benefit the South Orange residents and Seton Hall students alike.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t find it very inappropriate, but as a Seton Hall student, we pay for a lot of odds and ends around campus as it is,” Sydney Betts, a senior international business major, said.
“I think it is unfair for the village and the Seton Hall administration to think that students should take another fee lightly, no matter how small,” Betts added.
Betts pointed out the $100 fee is the equivalent of one, sometimes two or more, textbooks.
“I don’t think it helps town-gown relations either because that’s $100 we could be spending in restaurants or other shops in town.”
South Orange Village President Douglas Newman did not respond to requests for comment.
Brenden Higashi can be reached at email@example.com.