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Response to East Lansing study on MSU costs (Nov. 4, 2016)

MSU has a long history of working to be a good neighbor and partner to the entire Lansing region, including the city of East Lansing.

As are most municipalities in Michigan, East Lansing is struggling to deal with long-term legacy costs, reductions in tax revenues, the elimination of personal property taxes and deep cuts in state revenue sharing. While MSU has sympathy for the city, we are hardly responsible for the financial situation it finds itself in.

The study of how much MSU costs the city is hardly an analysis of the net value of MSU to East Lansing or the region. Rather, it is a cherry-picked report on certain costs that reflect a preconceived notion that we must financially be costing the city because of our students.

There are of course expenses related to being located next to MSU, or any major research university. Yes, there is the cost of a ladder truck to deal with our larger residence halls, but note the state reimburses the city for that cost through special fire services grants (and there are now several non-university buildings in the area that need a ladder truck). Yes, there are police expenses for dealing with crowds on game days, but MSU pays for all East Lansing police overtime on game days, and that doesn't take into consideration what MSU police contribute to East Lansing. These benefits include mutual assistance on police runs, access to a state-of-the-art firing range, a fully-equipped tactical team, and a major cyber-crimes unit, to name a few (resources a city the size of East Lansing would never be able to afford on their own).

The report also fails to take into account the significant contributions MSU brings to the city, such as support for festivals, the cultural/entertainment venues such as the Broad, Wharton and Breslin center, and the impact of major research facilities such as FRIB, which combined bring thousands of people to the area every year.

It ignores the millions of dollars our students, faculty and staff spend every year in East Lansing businesses, restaurants and apartment buildings, as well as $185 million in vendor payments made to mid-Michigan businesses, many based in the city. It also ignores the fact that the property values of the residences and businesses of East Lansing are significantly higher because they are located near MSU.

According to the Anderson Economic Group, which conducts an annual economic impact of the three University Research Corridor universities, the economic impact of MSU on Ingham County is more than $2.7 billion every year. While that is not all in East Lansing, it is clear the value of MSU to East Lansing far exceeds any associated costs.

MSU values our neighbors, and while we are certainly not perfect, we strive to be good neighbors. There is no doubt there are impacts on the city of locating next to such a large campus, but if you look at the entire impact of MSU on East Lansing, it is clear that the city benefits far more from our presence than it costs.

-VP Mark Burnham, MSU Governmental Affairs