East Lansing tallies the expense of serving MSU

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Police Cruiser PhotoMichigan State University and East Lansing are intertwined.  They depend on each other.  MSU brings students and commerce, while East Lansing provides the university off-campus housing and basic services.  These services include fire, police, trash and ambulances.

“All fire protection on campus is the East Lansing Fire Department,” said East Lansing Financial Health Team (FHT) member Michael Moquin.  “It also includes police officers who work overtime after sporting events, and there is also any cost of trash removal from either celebrations or move outs.”

East Lansing helps provide services that MSU cannot provide itself like the fire department.  All of these services cost money.  And while MSU does pay and draw people to the city, East Lansing has to cover the costs for the city and MSU.

This is because of the cut in funding from the state of Michigan to many local governments.

“The state does not fund at the level they used to,” said Assistant Vice President for Community Relations-East Lansing/Lansing Janet Lillie.

Cities also have to pay legacy costs.  Lillie explained that legacy costs are payments that an employer has to make by the virtue of being an employer.

“They are huge in relation to the pensions for police and fire departments,” said Lillie.  “These costs add up along with the state pulling funding.”

FHT is conducting a financial cost study on how much MSU costs East Lansing in services.  The cost study should be released some time this month, and is being conducted by a public sector financial consultant. “Through this study, for the first time, we can obtain what these costs are,” said Moquin.

“I believe most people recognize that the presence of a world-class university is great asset to our community.  Unfortunately, in Michigan, local governments have not been properly funded and are under some degree of financial pressure.  Due to this financial pressure our Financial Health Team is doing an intensive review of the financial picture facing the City,” said City Manager George Lahanas.

Lahanas also said that MSU provides staffing to East Lansing for festivals and other events, as well as financial assistance, as well as 10,000 employees to the city.  Even though having MSU in East Lansing means that the city must cover the costs of services for the school, that can be said for any city that has a major university.

MSU does pay East Lansing for the fire department that is provided by the city.  Also MSU pays for K9 units and any overtime that East Lansing police clock during sporting events and other on-campus events.

Also there are plenty of benefits that MSU brings to East Lansing.  The university brings recognition, residents and visitors who spend money and pay taxes.  This creates a strong symbiotic relationship between the city and university.

“There are many points of connectivity,” said Lillie.  “Many of the largest employers for students are across the region, not just in East Lansing and Michigan State.”

Lahanas said this study will hopefully set new recommendations that will help East Lansing become more financially stable.

“I think that it would be difficult to overstate the positive impact, both financial and less tangible, that MSU has on the City of East Lansing,” said Lahanas.  “MSU literally gives East Lansing our identity as a great university community.”

Lillie also stated the importance of having a university in East Lansing.
“The immediate benefits would be too large to list,” said Lillie.  “There are opportunities to grow the community through creative thinking.”

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