Friday, July 2, 2010

Princeton, New Jersey and Newcastle, Indiana

The borough of Princeton, New Jersey is up in arms.  Why?  Princeton University doesn't pay the borough enough money.  One of the wealthiest towns in America cannot keep their budget under control.  I grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, (as Bill Murray once said on SNL, "a small mining town in Northern Illinois",) just up the road from Northwestern University in Evanston.  So, I guess I've heard this argument as long as I can remember.

Universities, as tax exempt organizations, don't pay real estate taxes, for the most part.  Universities often pay something to their local governments, but they aren't obliged to pay.  Princeton University does pay many millions annually.  Princeton has gone as far as keeping faculty, staff and grad student housing on the tax books voluntarily because those residents may use the public schools.

Princeton, the university, was founded in Elizabeth, New Jersey (who knew??) in 1746, moving first to Newark, before settling in Princeton in 1756.  For those counting, that's several years before the existence of the United States.  Princeton, the borough, was incorporated in 1813.  Presumably, the University moved to the plot of land based on price, and reasonable proximity to New York and Philadelphia?  I'm willing to guess most of the building that followed in the Princeton area resulted because the University existed.

What's with Newcastle, Indiana? In this Wall Street Journal story, the villagers of Newcastle complain that the always empty railroad sidings in their town have suddenly filled up with parked rail cars.  The recession made storing rail cars a very good business.  So, C&NC Railroad loaded their rails with idle cars.  The residents were "shocked" to find that the railroads through their town were actually railroads?  The quote from the railroad sums up the situation: "The railroad, I'll guarantee you, was there a long time before they bought their houses."

Note to borough: The University, I'll guarantee you, was there a long time before your town.

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