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Two states aid college towns

The mayor of Providence, R.I., has revived an idea tried a quarter-century ago in Evanston — taxing college students to help fund city services.


The mayor of Providence, R.I., has revived an idea tried a quarter-century ago in Evanston — taxing college students to help fund city services.

Mayor David Cicilline told the Providence Journal he will ask the state legislature to approve a plan that would let him impose a $300 annual fee on students at the four schools in town.

Providence already benefits from an unusual arrangement with its state legislature. Rhode Island and Connecticut are the only two states in the country that provide a subsidy from state tax revenue to towns that host tax-exempt state institutions, universities or hospitals.

The tax help in Rhode Island amounts to 27 percent of the tax that would have been owed on the land if it wasn’t tax exempt. Connecticut, the Journal says, is more generous, coming up with about two-thirds of the foregone revenue.

New Haven, Conn., home to Yale University, collected $37 million under the program this year.

Last year Evanston aldermen pressed local state lawmakers to impose a tax on college endowments — an idea that was not warmly received by the lawmakers.

The aldermen have also tried a number of other strategies recently, so far without any consistent success.

But, after the defeat in the 1980s, aldermen here have shown no inclination yet to revisit the tuition tax issue, and as far as we can tell, they haven’t tried to get the legislature to dole out an impact fee, like Rhode Island and Connecticut do, or share casino revenue with municipalities that host non-profits, as is done in Connecticut.

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