By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Last month, local businessman Michael Azeez gave $5 million to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. In return, Stockton agreed to take over the old synagogue built in 1895 that Azeez had fixed up and turned into a museum. The Form 990 tax returns show it costs roughly $400,000 per year to run the museum.
Some of that money comes from taxpayers. Every hotel guest in New Jersey pays 5 percent over and above the regular 7 percent sales tax to fund the New Jersey Arts Council, which gives most of that money to organizations like the Azeez organization that runs the synagogue museum. Many hotel and motel owners say that this tax is killing their business.
Stockton President Herman J. Saatkamp Jr. said he expects a 4 percent annual yield on the $5 million gift from Azeez ? about $200,000 per year ? enough to operate the museum.
But who is getting 4 percent on their investments in this economy? And how is Stockton ? with its government red tape, civil service, and obligation to use only union contractors ? going to run the museum 31 miles away at half the current cost?
In 1995, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority spent $5 million to completely renovate a hopelessly obsolete library building in Atlantic City built by steel billionaire Andrew Carnegie in 1904. At first, CRDA was embarrassed when it could not find anyone to use the place after spending all that money. But Stockton took it and hired Alex Marino, now a Linwood councilman and Republican freeholder candidate, to hold activities there. Marino?s salary alone is now $100,000.
In 1983, Fred and Ethel Noyes, former owners of Historic Smithville Inn and the Ram?s Head Restaurant, created the Noyes Museum of Art when they retired. But when it could not continue, Stockton took it over.
In 1984, Marriott Corporation bought the Seaview Country Club in Galloway and ran it as a golf resort until 2009. But then the new owners wanted out. Stockton College obliged and bought the place for $20 million, almost as much as a used Atlantic City casino. And it completely rebuilt the place for another $16 million ? with union contractors.
Stockton gave up doing the same thing with the failed Ponderlodge Golf Resort in Cape May only when it could not get out of a deed restriction to use the place as a park, since it was bought with Green Acres money.
In the 1920s, some Italian businessmen built Dante Hall in Atlantic? City in a failed effort to bring high-class Italian opera to Atlantic City. The ornate auditorium was soon bought by the Catholic Church for its St. Michael?s School. After the school closed in the 1980s, CRDA spent nearly $3 million to restore the building to what it was when it first flopped as an opera house. But Dante Hall flopped again. Last June, Stockton took it over.
Meanwhile tuition, room, board, fees and books for full-time students at Stockton is $27,860 for New Jersey residents ? far more than most of them and their families can afford. Many graduates have big student loans they can?t pay back.
Each year Stockton gets $40 million in direct aid from New Jersey taxpayers ? $20 million in cash and $20 million in reimbursement for employee pension and medical benefits. That comes to more than $5,400 per year for each of its 7,300 students.
How much could Stockton cut tuition if it didn?t run an old synagogue in Woodbine, a failed opera house in Atlantic City, a struggling art museum in Oceanville and a failed country club in Galloway and pay $108,000 a year for a full-time public relations director to announce these projects?
Someone should do that research. But public policy research at Stockton is run by the Lloyd Levenson Gaming Hospitality and Tourism Institute, named after the casino attorney-lobbyist who got nearly $300 million of state and local tax breaks and subsidies for the Revel Casino. And by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, named after the 10-term Democratic congressman before Republican Frank LoBiondo started his nine terms. The Hughes? Center just hired ?pay to play? poster child Louis Greenwald, the Democratic head of the state Assembly budget committee, to be its ?legislator-in-residence.?
So the only research done at Stockton is on why we need more government laws, borrowing, and spending to fix every problem.
(Reprinted from October 12, 2011 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/17199-stockton-students-pay-the-price-for-dubious-property-acquisitions.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email
or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.