Just when the controversy about tax exempt status for Princeton University is heating up, Philip Sean Curran reports in the Packet that the university has bought Larini’s service station on Alexander Road. As a reporter for U.S. 1 I’ve been watching the university inexorably acquire property on the “back door to Princeton” for 25 years — starting with its purchase of the Princeton Ballet School building — and that goal was never secret.
Campaigning for a change in the tax status, Roger Martindell wrote an impassioned letter to the editor in Town Topics to make the case that the university should pay taxes, not merely donate “in lieu of taxes’ to the municipality. He cites (1) government grants (2) intellectual property licensing and (3) ticket sales as proof that the university is making a profit.
I have no personal connection to the university and have not studied the tax question recently, but I seriously doubt that the university’s vast wealth derives from ticket sales. Intellectual property income paid for the new chemistry building, and government grants pay for research. I believe the university’s wealth comes from having a lot of money to begin with, thanks to wealthy – privileged — alumni, and it was invested well. .
The “privilege” that alumni (and now alumnae) enjoy is a topic for another day. But as an owner of property near the university, I do not support the movement to strip tax exempt status from the institution that increases the value of my property. People — and this includes me — want to live here because of the university, not because of the shops in Palmer Square.