As of January 1, the UG has to pay taxes to the municipality of Groningen for any advertising that’s visible from the public road. That includes the name of buildings, such as the Röling building or the University Library.
The Groningen municipal council decided that this week. In doing so, the council says it wants to combat the city becoming ‘too cluttered’. According to the opposition and many Groningen entrepreneurs, it is a vulgar way to get extra money. They call the much-discussed measure a ‘bully tax’.
Non-profit organisations such as churches, sports clubs, and educational institutions also fall under the new rule. This includes the UG; from 2024 it will have to pay for every expression directed at the public road.
Signpost, not advertisement
A letter from the uni to the municipality was to no avail. In it, the UG wrote that many buildings have names that serve as a kind of signpost, and that moreover, those names often refer to people who were once connected to the university, such as the lawyer and polemologist Bert Röling (1906-1985), banker/politician and alumnus Wim Duisenberg (1935-2005), and Nobel laureate Ben Feringa. ‘This does not mean it is advertising.’
The university owns and manages many properties with a ‘signpost’ in and around the city of Groningen (such as the Aletta Jacobs hall) and points out that money intended for research and education is now disappearing into municipal coffers.
Furthermore, the UG argues that the university is a public organisation funded with public money. ‘This means that these funds are now used to pay this tax to an also publicly funded body. This does not seem to us to be the intention.’
It could not appease the coalition (GroenLinks, PvdA, Partij voor de Dieren, SP and ChristenUnie), which also proved unmoved by many other protests. A motion by the opposition to exclude non-profit organisations also failed.
It is unclear how much the UG will ultimately have to pay – the municipality is still working on those calculations. In 2024, advertising under two square meters will still be exempted; after that, one square meter will be the limit.