Princeton University has successfully claimed tax exemptions for 2023 for certain properties the school previously voluntarily left on the tax rolls.
The university will make voluntary PILOT payments to the Princeton Public Schools to make up for the lost tax revenue. The university will pay the school district $2.25 million a year over the next five years, with an expected annual increase of 4%.
Princeton University will also pay the district an additional $500,000 per year to fund priorities identified in the district’s new strategic plan. The strategic plan includes for mental health, enrichment, high-performance systems, and evidence-based staffing initiatives.
“The substantial increase of our support for Princeton Public Schools reflects the University’s ongoing commitment to its community,” said Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber in a written statement about the deal. “The excellence of Princeton’s schools is a point of pride for all of us who work and live here. The community and University have a strong shared interest in maintaining the health and quality of our local school system.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Kelley said having strong partnerships with the community will help the school district move forward with its strategic plan. “I would like to thank and applaud Princeton University for their generous investment in the important objectives of the PPS Strategic Plan and for their commitment to our public schools and our community,” Kelley said. “Having a specific funding amount set for the next five years enables us to support our students and to make wise, long-term decisions.”
School Board President Dafna Kendal said in a written statement that the university has been a strong support of the school district for decades. “While we are very different institutions, we share many values, including a shared commitment to excellence and equity,” she said.“We all want Princeton Public Schools to be among the best in the state and the country and we want to deliver an excellent education to all of our children. Support from Princeton University helps make this possible.”
The release indicates that the payments will exceed the amount the schools received from the property tax payments in previous years. In a follow-up email, a university spokesman said properties totaling $195,847,700 in assessed value have been taken off the tax rolls. The properties generated $2,161,611 in school taxes in 2022. The properties taken off the tax rolls were primarily graduate student housing, the spokesman said.
University officials have also been negotiating a new agreement with the municipality for this year. The most recent PILOT agreement expired at the end of 2022. The new agreement with the municipality has not been announced yet. According to the university announcement about the deal with the school district, the school intends to give the town more money than the amount of property taxes the school previously paid for properties that were recently granted a tax exemption. Taking property off the tax rolls means the university won’t have to pay taxes to the county on those properties.
In October of 2022, the university made its final payments to about 550 Princeton homeowners as part of a legal settlement reached between a residents’ group and the school back in 2016 that ended litigation challenging the school’s property tax exemptions for certain properties. The school made payments to homeowners for six years. The school paid $2 million in 2017 and $1.6 million per year from 2018 to 2022 to a property tax relief fund. The fund distributed annual payments to Princeton homeowners who received a homestead benefit under the New Jersey Homestead Property Tax Credit Act in the most recent year for which the fund received a list prepared by the state of homeowners who were paid homestead benefits. Residents challenged the nonprofit status of several buildings on the campus, arguing that those buildings are acting as commercial entities that generate profits, for example through patents. The citizen group settled the lawsuit with the university the week before the case went to court.
In 2022, the university paid the municipality a $3.9 million PILOT, as well as $11.6 million in property taxes and sewer fees. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022, the value of Princeton’s endowment stood at $35.8 billion.