Brown University has been a vital part of Providence for almost 250 years, and the university community looks forward to partnering constructively with Providence for many years to come. In the spirit of rediscovering the valuable relationship we know can exist, I am writing today to correct some misinformation about this relationship so that this town-and-gown pairing can realize its full potential.
Brown understands and appreciates the fiscal challenges facing Providence and the difficult decisions that Mayor Angel Taveras has confronted in the past year. These financial problems, however, are not short-term and cannot be fixed with a quick infusion of cash. Providence and Rhode Island need to develop a strategy for prospering in the longer term, a strategy that will reverse the tide of emigration by creating an economic climate that sustains education and research, attracts companies and brings jobs. It is in this longer-term, strategic approach that Brown, together with the other educational institutions, is best able to be of service.
That work is already well under way, as evidenced by the changes taking place in the Jewelry District. Brown has invested more than $200 million in this area over the past decade, reinvigorating a historically important part of the city and establishing the critical foundation for the future Knowledge Economy.
It should not be forgotten that Brown and other nonprofits already contribute to the city’s revenue stream. In 2003, during the midst of an earlier fiscal crisis, the private colleges and universities in Providence agreed to voluntary payments to the city of $50 million over 20 years. Brown alone provided $4 million last year in voluntary and property tax payments to Providence and recently offered an additional $10 million over the next five years in support of the Providence schools. The city also receives payments in lieu of taxes from the state as a result of the presence of private colleges and universities, receiving $23 million last year.