The Norman Transcript

Columns

August 26, 2013

Private colleges should pay taxes

NORMAN — Private colleges and universities haven’t lost their property tax-exempt status – yet. But it shouldn’t surprise anybody, least of all those running those institutions, if they do sometime during the next few years. And they will have only themselves to blame.

Even the little game they play with local officials — making a “voluntary” payment in lieu of taxes every year — isn’t going to work, since that generally amounts to 25 percent or less of what they would owe if their property was taxable.

I’ve openly mocked this arrangement for decades: if a class of property is legally tax exempt, then its owners shouldn’t have to submit to a shakedown from local officials to “donate” even a percentage of the money instead. If they should not be tax exempt, change the law.

And this is not to endorse the arguments of city and town officials – that they need this money because of all the fabulous services they are supplying to the institutions. They have presumably been providing those services for the nearly 100 years that educational institutions have been tax exempt.

The reason they “need” the money is because they long ago gave away the store to the public employee unions, giving them lavish, unsustainable benefits including early retirement and pension packages vastly more generous than most of those who pay the bill receive.

Still, the argument of colleges and universities that they are “nonprofit” is wearing very thin, thanks to their own greed — raising pay and benefits for administrators and tenured faculty while sucking ever more money from students that in increasing measure comes from government grants and loans.

One of the latest dustups over this is in Princeton, New Jersey, where residents have sued to overturn the tax-exempt status of their local Ivy League university.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Sign petition to put shelters in schools

    Every successful grassroots initiative requires a plethora of volunteers who are willing to do whatever it takes, and the movement to build storm shelters in every Oklahoma public school is no different....

    August 2, 2014

  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Porch leap looked muchbigger as a kid

    It’s no secret that porch designs have changed over the years. Drive through new Norman developments and look at the porches. Most only have room for a potted plant and a spot to drop those UPS packages, no place for a porch swing or ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Keeping the war buried

    International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Gaza’s victims: civilians and peace

    After more than two weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel, there is no question which side has the upper hand. Thursday’s strike on a U.N.-run school for Palestinian children increased the Palestinian death toll to more than 760. By ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014