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South Orange president doubts tax support

South Orange Village President Doug Newman said he does not know whether or not the Village's proposal to tax college students will gain enough support to pass the state legislature and the governor's desk.

"I currently have no basis for knowing whether the State Legislature will introduce supporting legislation; if introduced in committee, whether it ever would find its way to the floor for a vote of the Senate and Assembly, whether it would be supported by the bodies, and if all of these occurred, whether the governor would sign the legislation," Newman said.

South Orange, according to Newman, will not consider legislation to actually impose municipal services fees on Seton Hall students until New Jersey passes legislation enabling municipalities to tax students.

Newman said that, should New Jersey law permit such fees and the South Orange's Board of Trustees subsequently imposes a municipal services fee on students, "the proceeds probably would be viewed as a form of general revenues" for South Orange despite the fact the resolution cites the continually increasing cost of providing specific services, namely "police, fire, emergency medical services, street lighting and road maintenance" as its main justification for the fees.

"All residents, including students, receive the benefit of public safety (including police and fire protection), the provision and maintenance of municipal infrastructure, including roads, sewers, street lights, shade trees, parks, open space, and other public facilities," Newman said. "Other municipal services, such as public health, community planning, engineering, building officials, code enforcement, courts, recreation, and cultural affairs likewise support all residents.

While Newman has said that the Village has not tried to determine how much money it would raise from the student fee, he said the students would definitely be impacted by the imposition of such a fee.

"However," Newman continued, "the proposed $100 annual service fee for full-time students (or about $0.42 per day) would pale in comparison to the property taxes that residents currently pay. By way of example, in 2009, the average South Orange household paid $14,331 in property taxes - $3,998 of which supported the Village."

Newman also said that Seton Hall properties represent 12 percent of the assessed value of South Orange and, while Seton Hall is in session, the student body represents over a third of South Orange's population.

Furthermore, Newman said the Board of Trustees did not make a deliberate attempt to exclude students from the discussion of the resolution when it held its vote while the student body was on Christmas break. The Village first discussed the resolution during finals week.

"The Board of Trustees adopted Resolution 314-09, after discussing it on Dec. 14 2009, prior to Seton Hall's winter break," Newman said. "I can assure you that there was no effort whatsoever to schedule consideration of this resolution, at our next meeting, because students were on break; the board routinely considers resolutions at the meeting after they're discussed."

Brenden Higashi can be reached at

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