The Mighty Dollar

SHSU staff, faculty and students contribute close to $115 million a year to the city of Huntsville, according to Mayor Bill Green.This semester there are 13,079 students enrolled at SHSU, and many contribute money towards the city of Huntsville, whether they live in the city or commute.J.D. Schindler, the Huntsville director of economic development, said the amount of money students contribute to the city in terms of purchasing retail is very important.”It’s significant because a large proportion of our tax base comes from sales tax,” said Schindler. “When you bring in thousands of students, they spend money and stimulate the economy.”The SHSU Department of Economics conducted a survey in 1999 to determine how much the university contributed to Huntsville’s economy. The study, titled “The Economic Impact of Sam Houston State University,” showed the effects students, faculty and staff play in contributed to the city’s coffers.That year, local students contributed $50.3 million in off campus expenditures, and non-local students gave another $7 million.Dr. Doug Berg, professor of economics, conducted the survey along with Dr. John Miller over the course of a year. Berg and Miller based the study on another that was conducted by Green in 1987, updating the figures from the earlier survey.”We did a survey on the students, which we sent out across campus based on the different classes,” said Berg.Of the approximately 12,500 students enrolled in 1999, 658 students responded to the poll, a response rate of about 44 percent of the total surveys sent to students.Berg said the formula used to calculate the amount of money students spent used a multiplier of 1.7 to show the number of times money changed hands in the community, a figure that he said was conservative.”Any multiplier over 2 is too aggressive,” said Berg.Berg said the studies used in other Texas universities tended to use a multiplier over 2, which took the assumption that the same dollar bills stayed in the communities for more than two people.Much of the money students spent went toward retail establishments such as grocery stores and restaurants. In 1999, students spent approximately $10.45 per visit to restaurants, averaging 2.4 visits weekly, totaling about $1304.16 annually. They spent $27.43 per visit to grocery stores, at .9 visits per week, about $1283.72 annually. Students also spent $12.10 per visit to gas stations at 1.1 visits weekly, about a $692.12 annually total.Junior Clint Walker said that he spends about $50 to $100 dollars weekly on different expenses.”It’s mostly on food,” said Walker.Walker said that he felt Huntsville had plenty of places worth spending his money.”There’s enough,” said Walker. “Lots of restaurants like Chili’s. I take a lot of Wal-Mart trips. Movies and gas, too, but the majority I spend at Wal-Mart.”A spokesman from Wal-Mart on I-45 said that money from SHSU students comprises about 45 percent of the store’s income.In contrast, sophomore Eduardo Regonesi said he only spends about $30 weekly in Huntsville.”Drinks,” said Regonesi. “That’s all I spend it on. And going to clubs, too.”SHSU students who live in town also contribute property tax to the city.”It’s very interesting to see the number of rental units of students who live in town,” said Berg. “That has a big impact on property taxes.”In the study, students living in apartments paid $513,473 annually in property taxes, and those living in owner-occupied homes paid $837,368.Berg said property taxes help fund the local police, schools and the city itself.SHSU students also contributed to local charities, such as churches and various non-profit organizations. Local students gave approximately $1.2 million to charities in 1999, and non-local students gave $222,805. Another $1.4 million came from faculty and staff.”I think it’s very interesting that that’s local charity,” said Berg. “We have a very big impact on local charities, I believe.”The total impact of the university on the city’s economy was placed at about $99 million in 1999. On the Walker County Chamber of Commerce web site, Mayor Green, also a professor of economics at SHSU, now estimates that the university contributes more than $115 million each year to the Huntsville economy, based on inflation and the increase of students since 1999.

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