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10 November 2009 @ 06:20 pm
Info about Mayor Ravenshalh's proposed Student Tax. The first part was taken from a letter from the president of Chatham, but since this tax will affect students at all the local colleges and universities, I'm posting the entire message.

I am writing you concerning a matter you may have read about in the newspapers, and will see on tonight’s television news: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed one percent tax on the tuition paid by all students who attend any institution of higher learning in the City of Pittsburgh. He is calling it a “fair share tax” to try to make the point that students use City services such as police and fire services without having to contribute to their expense. In fact, what he is trying to do, in a very difficult budget environment for the City, is to find revenue to plug a $15 million hole in the City budget. The Mayor indeed faces a serious budgetary problem, for which solutions must be found, but not at the expense of students across the City.

The statement which follows was made this morning at a press conference where all ten institutions which constitute PCHE (Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education) were represented and gathered to oppose the passage of this tax by Council in the next few weeks. It is self explanatory, and makes very strongly the case that we feel our students are under attack with this measure, that they are the most vulnerable members of our population, and that we intend to oppose, including by legal means, any effort to impose this tax on students. (Attached below the PCHE statement is an article from the Tribune Review describing today’s press conference.)

There are a couple of points I wish to clarify for you, because some students who have talked with me seem not to understand that: 1) the tax will be charged to all students, regardless of whether they are residents of Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania; and 2) it will be charged on the total tuition bill, without regard to whether you receive financial aid or not. This is not a tax on the institution, but rather a tax on students themselves.

As time goes on, I will post more updates, but suggest that you make an effort to stay abreast of the information. This is a very important issue for us all to know about and to make clear what our views are regarding it. Make no mistake but that this is very bad for students, and very bad for higher education in Pittsburgh.

Here is the statement read today by Dr. Mary Hines of Carlow University who, as the Chair of PCHE, spoke on all our behalf:

PCHE Statement on City’s Proposed Student Privilege Tax

PCHE was founded in 1966 and is a voluntary multi- purpose consortium of the ten accredited colleges and universities in Allegheny County. Through association and collaboration, the diverse membership of PCHE works to enhance the intellectual, cultural, and economic vitality of the Pittsburgh region.

Our members are: Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, La Roche College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Point Park University, Robert Morris University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Joining me today are my colleagues from these schools. We choose to speak with one unified voice and all of the presidents will be available to comment on specific issues.

Yesterday, the Mayor released his budget to City Council. In it, he chose to include a Post-Secondary Education Privilege tax, which he calls a “Fair Share Tax”. In his proposal, it imposes a 1% tax on the tuition paid by the thousands of students attending universities, trade schools and colleges in the City of Pittsburgh.

PCHE believes that the tax is completely unfair to our students. PCHE will do whatever is necessary to protect our students from being the easy target the Mayor is seeking to solve the City’s financial problems.

As presented, the tax will charge between $27 and $400 per student for the privilege of studying at his or her school. These students attend school approximately eight months per year. Now, compare this to the $52 Local Services Tax per year that professionals living outside the City and working in the City pay, even though they may be earning anywhere from $4,000 to $4 million over twelve months of employment.

Our student bodies are diverse. Many of our students are adults working and living in the area and are required to pay all of the taxes imposed by the City, which include the Wage Tax, the Local Services Tax, the Regional Asset District Tax, Amusement Tax, Parking Tax, and Real Estate Tax for those residing in the City.

We know already that all of our schools do pay a significant amount of taxes to the City of Pittsburgh. The only tax that we are exempt from paying, by State law, is the Real Estate Tax. However, for those properties not used in direct support of our mission for the last fiscal year the tax amounted to $2.6 million.

Education plays a major role in the vibrancy and marketability of this region. As anchors in our neighborhoods we act as economic generators to promote places where others want to live, work, play and invest, thus bringing with it more revenues for the City. The Mayor’s proposal weakens the City’s credibility as a progressive City and will hinder both community and economic development.

History shows that members of the area’s schools of higher education have been and continue to be key collaborators on many positive private and public initiatives.

It is deeply troubling that this same collaborative spirit has not been offered to the PCHE members by the Mayor as he assembled his strategy for this year’s City budget and beyond.

We welcome an opportunity to be a part of a vigorous discussion with the Mayor on how PCHE’s members can assist in helping the City find solutions to the serious challenges facing the City.

However, we respectfully and vigorously disagree with the Mayor that the solution to years of financial woes for the City should be found on the backs of students bettering themselves and in many cases the regional workforce that will help keep the city of Pittsburgh and the region competitive in an ever challenging national and international marketplace.

In conclusion, the Mayor’s proposal is contrary to well established law in Pennsylvania and the United States. This tax is illegal and unenforceable. It is an extraordinary and ill-advised disincentive to attract potential students to our universities. While Pittsburgh enjoys being first in many endeavors, we do not want to be first in the nation in this ill conceived proposal of taxing the tuition of college students.

College presidents unite in opposition to proposed tuition tax

By Bill Zlatos
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Last updated: 2:12 pm

Eight college and university presidents stood united today against a proposed 1 percent tuition tax on students that they consider unfair and illegal.

"We respectfully and vigorously disagree with the mayor that the solution to years of financial woes for the city should be found on the backs of students bettering themselves and in many cases the regional workforce that will help keep the city of Pittsburgh and the region in a ever challenging national and international marketplace," said Mary Hines, president of Carlow University and chairwoman of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, a coalition of 10 institutions in Allegheny County.

She was responding to Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal yesterday to impose a Post-Secondary Education Privilege Tax or "Fair Share Tax" on the tuition paid by students attending colleges, universities and trade schools in the city. The tax would be collected by the schools they attend.

Attending the news conference besides Hines were University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, Duquesne University President Charles J. Dougherty, Point Park University President Paul Hennigan, Chatham University President Esther Barazzone, La Roche College President Sister Candace Introcaso, Robert Morris University President Gregory G. Dell'Omo and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary President William G. Carl III. Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon and Community College of Allegheny County President Alex Johnson could not attend but support the effort, council members said.

"This tax is illegal and unenforceable," Hines said. "It is an extraordinary and ill-advised disincentive to attract potential students to our universities."

Hines called the tax "unfair" and said the council "will do whatever is necessary to protect our students from being the easy target the mayor is seeking to solve the city's financial problems."

Nordenberg said the tax would place local schools at a competitive disadvantage with schools outside Pittsburgh.

"We really don't compete against each other," he said. "We compete against other colleges and universities that don't have to pay these fees."
West End Geek: BOOO!!!!!jtmulc on November 11th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Good post. Thanks.

I think the odds of this actually happening is zero.

1. It would be political suicide as it would be brought up time and again that he taxes those least able to pay.

2. City Law Dept vs. the combined legal strength of... forget that, it wouldn't even be a contest. Let's try this: City Law Dept. vs. Duquesne Law School (just them). They still wouldn't last 5 minutes. "OK class, your homework for tonight is to do some research and find me 10 ways this bill violates existing state or federal law".

3. I might also point out that Pitt, Duquesne, and CMU have some pretty good connections in Harrisburg, a LOT better ones than Luke does.