Pluses and minuses of being a ‘college city’

Angela Hoover

It’s almost impossible to determine what financial impact the university has on the city of Kent, Ward 3 Councilman Wayne Wilson said.

No hard numbers exist, but data can shed light on the benefits or the costs, if only indirectly.

The city’s preliminary 2005 financial report lists more than $16 million in revenue.

More than $3.4 million of that revenue comes from taxes paid by Kent State employees. Student- and full-time employees pay 2 percent of their gross salaries to city income tax, said Lisa Heilman, payroll manager at the university’s comptroller’s office. This is about 20 percent of the total revenue pulled in by the city.

To provide fire, EMS and police services in 2005, it costs the city $450 for each resident, according to financial analysis gathered in the Benchmark Project, which is Kent City Manager Dave Ruller’s study.

It costs more than $1,000 per response by fire or ambulance, said Bill Lillich, safety director for Kent.

The city, however, has no idea how much of this safety expense can be directly attributed to Kent State students. Safety responders don’t ask if someone is a student, and no statistics have ever been compiled.

“We don’t intend to classify people by student versus non-student, so we don’t keep that data,” Lillich said. “We just deal with those people we’re forced to deal with. We don’t want to create the impression that there might be any discrimination or profiling.”

The fire department had a total of 3,690 responses in 2005, Lillich said. About 16 percent of those calls were on campus.

Some campus response has increased because of false alarms from the hypersensitive equipment in newer facilities, Lillich said.

“The primary purpose of the fire alarms is to save lives,” he said. “So we can’t really say, ‘That’s probably another popcorn call, so we’ll just send someone out with a pickup truck to


In 2005, 9,965 criminal and traffic cases were tried at the Kent Municipal Court. These cases brought in more than $1.3 million revenue to the city. After paying Portage County its portion, Kent retained more than $634,700.

Kent State is very important to the city, Wilson said.

“We definitely need to look at the university as an asset and not a liability.”

Ward 5 Councilman Edward Bargerstock disagreed. He said he has long held that a small percentage of a large population bears the burden of paying for city services for the whole community in the form of income and property taxes.

He said Kent State is the largest land owner in the city, yet because it is a state school it does not pay taxes.

Bargerstock cited the increase in the commuter student population as “placing a tremendous burden on the infrastructre, which needs to be addressed.”

He also challenged that a comparison be made of water usage fees, stating Kent State pays only half of what the rest of the city does.

Contact public affairs reporter Angela Hoover at [email protected]