Value tax

80% of college property value tax-exempt, school owns 17% of Hill – The Lafayette

While many students choose Lafayette for its small size, few likely know the extent of the school’s reach. The college owns 181 individual parcels of land, totaling over $100 million in market value and 363 acres that span multiple neighborhoods and municipalities.

“The College believes that every property owned is important,” Craig Becker, associate vice president for finance and business, wrote in an email. “Each serves the mission of the College or its students, faculty and staff.”

According to Becker, the college owns 120 properties on College Hill, with a cumulative purchase price of $24.7 million, excluding the campus itself. These figures, although used for the college’s financial statements under generally accepted accounting principles, are added with each additional property acquisition and not adjusted for inflation; the current market value of college properties on the Hill, excluding the campus, is nearly $30 million, according to data obtained from Northampton County. Becker wrote that the county’s published values ​​are “extremely questionable.”

However, neither the market value nor the purchase price is used for tax purposes. Property taxes are determined by the assessed value of the land and buildings on the property – usually about half the market value, according to a city property analysis – then calculated using the property tax rate set by the city of Easton and the Easton. Area school district.

The total land value of Lafayette College properties is $53,063,800, but 29 of the college properties, including the campus itself, McKelvy House, the President’s House, and the Castle, are tax exempt, according to publicly available property records. These 29 tax-exempt properties represent about 80% of the total assessment value – $42,256,200 – leaving only about $10.8 million in taxable property. Assuming it pays the full 9.2% property tax on each of its taxable properties, the college spends less than $1 million a year in property taxes, although Becker wrote that the college “elects[s] to pay property taxes on off-campus properties.

A parcel of the college’s land – the one that houses the McCartney dorms, Miss Jackson’s and the College Store – has been listed as vacant for the past two years, meaning the college hasn’t paid taxes on the value tax on the buildings therein. This is due to a backlog at the Northampton County Assessor’s office, according to Becker, and a reassessment of the property was completed in September, valuing the buildings at $1,884,800. At current rates, two years of lost tax revenue amounts to $346,000.

At 362.84 acres, Lafayette College properties occupy approximately twice the area of ​​the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. About 125 acres of college property are in the 800-acre College Hill neighborhood itself, meaning Lafayette owns about 17% of the neighborhood. Excluding the campus itself, Lafayette owns about six percent of the land in the College Hill neighborhood, with the borders of the neighborhood being all land north and east of Bushkill Creek within the city limits. A 2018 analysis by the morning call showed that the college owned 20% of the properties on the Hill, excluding the campus; twelve properties have since been purchased.

The vast majority of the college’s off-campus properties, totaling over 100 mostly single-family homes, are used for residential purposes. These houses are used for both students and faculty, with the latter being part of faculty recruitment and retention efforts.

“Properties that are typically rented to faculty are on the campus perimeter,” Becker wrote. “They are north of campus between Burke and Pierce streets, east of campus on Cattell and Porter Street, and down to the river with properties on Nevin Terrace. There are also properties used for faculty housing near Metzgar Field and LaFarm.

Several properties owned by the college are listed as vacant land. Becker wrote that options to develop these properties, such as 100 Cattell Street, are being explored.

“The land on Cattell Street is zoned for mixed use [development]wrote Becker. “The College is considering several options for the creation of a three-story mixed-use development at the corner of Cattell Street and Clinton Terrace. The ground floor could consist of commercial space open to the public with residential units above.

Several other college grounds are used as parking spaces. According to Becker, the need for parking is high at academic institutions, although the McCartney Street car park across from McKeen Hall is currently under development. dormitories. Century-old houses once stood on the plot.

College President Nicole Hurd hosts a community conversation Oct. 11 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Marlo room. Although no agenda is publicly available, a group of College Hill residents called Save College Hill hope discuss college expansion and past commitments related to expansion.

Gilad Evans ’24 contributed reporting.