Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today introduced a 2010 budget proposal that includes a 1% tax on all tuition paid to Pittsburgh based schools. The “Post-Secondary Education Privilege Tax” would be used to help meet the city’s ongoing pension fund obligations. The University of Pittsburgh released a statement saying in part, “While we understand the challenges the City faces in raising revenues to achieve a balanced budget, the University of Pittsburgh will vigorously oppose any attempt to impose a service or privilege fee on our undergraduate and graduate students.” The mayor estimates the tax would amount to about $135 per student at Pitt and $27 per full time student at CCAC. At schools like Carnegie Mellon University the number could go as high as $500 a year. The mayor calls it a “Fair Share Tax” saying students use city services but do not pay for them. Pitt says, “In terms of compensation for City services, the University already provides significant financial support through taxes and other payments, both direct and through its employees, along with numerous in-kind services. Pitt annually makes nearly $4.5 million in direct tax payments to the City and the City of Pittsburgh Public Schools, including $1.45 million in real estate taxes for 'non-educational' Pitt-owned properties as well as for leased offices and facilities, plus $1.64 million in parking taxes and $586,000 in amusement taxes.” The University also points to its police staff, which it says is the third-largest uniformed force in the County. The statement goes on to say, “Pitt feels the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund is the most efficient and effective manner for nonprofits to provide voluntary funding support to the City. Pitt was a major participant in the first Pittsburgh Public Service Fund that provided contributions from the nonprofit community totaling nearly $14 million for the three-year term of 2005, 2006, and 2007. The University has already agreed to participate in the proposed second Public Service Fund and has made a significant increase in its three-year financial pledge.” The statement wraps up with, “Through all of our current avenues of direct and indirect support to the City, we do believe we are paying our fair share for City operations.”
Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty sent an emial to all university employees. In it he calls the tax, "...an attack on college access and affordability, and will serve as a barrier to families who are trying to
achieve a better future through education." He goes on to say the tax, "...directly
contradicts [Ravenstahl's] December 13, 2006 press release announcing the Pittsburgh
Promise, in which he identifies affordability as one of the primary
barriers to college access." Dougherty says the tax places the burden of balancing the city's budget on college students an is likely illegal. The email says, "This will weaken Pittsburgh's credibility as a progressive place to live and work, further hindering community and economic development efforts. As Duquesne and other local institutions work to recruit the best and brightest students to Pittsburgh, this tax
will serve as a competitive disadvantage when prospective students compare
us to universities in cities that do not impose such a tax."
A coalition of other Pittsburgh based schools know as the “Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education” will hold a news conference tomorrow to react to the proposed tax. Among the schools that are members of the council; Chatham University, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Duquesne University, Point Park University, LaRoche College, University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University.