Private Universities have a State Granted Exemption to Houston’s Drainage Fee.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker is now saying that churches and schools should be exempt from the City’s new drainage fees. What nobody’s talking about, is that private universities are already exempt from the drainage fee under state law. We will all have to pay $5 a month (more if we own businesses), but Rice University, the Baylor College of Medicine, the University of St. Thomas, and Houston Baptist University won’t have to pay a cent!
These are wealthy universities. Rice has an endowment of over $4 billion; the Baylor College of Medicine has almost $1.5 billion in endowment. HBU has $85 million. The University of St. Thomas has over $50 million in endowment, and it gets the backing of the Catholic Church. None of us has that kind of money, but we’ll have to pay the drainage fee and they won’t.
Endowments aren’t the whole story. Rice’s campus is 300 acres. HBU has 100 acres. The University of St. Thomas covers 19 city blocks. The Baylor College of Medicine covers a sizable portion of the Texas Medical Center. These are big pieces of land. They get rain. They use the City’s storm sewers and other infrastructure – but they won’t have to pay for it.
Remember, these are private universities. They don’t receive direct tax subsidies. They’re not like public universities or schools, where paying the drainage fee would amount to double taxation (Negligible amounts of double taxation, perhaps, but double taxation nonetheless.)
This strikes me as terribly unfair. We really should eliminate the private university exemption. If that doesn’t happen, then maybe City Hall could convince the leaders of these institutions to voluntarily pay the fees. I’m shocked that nobody else seems to be as bothered by it as I am.