On February 2, Carleton College and St. Olaf College each donated $80,000 to the city of Northfield, for a total of $160,000. According to Brenda Anglestad, the Finance Director of Northfield, the “donations go into the General Fund” and will be spent on “General City Operations, including Police, Fire, Streets & Parks, Recreation & Library”.
The tradition of making donations to the city of Northfield dates back to 1923, when Carleton and St. Olaf each donated $500. Since then, the donation amounts have increased substantially. There is no set amount by which the donations increase, nor a set timeline for how often they grow. According to Janet Hanson, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of St. Olaf, the colleges “look at inflation, we look at what’s happening with the city’s budget, we look at what each of the college budgets can afford.”
In past years, the donations have been made in person. Fred Rogers, the former Vice President and Treasurer of Carleton, said he and the St. Olaf Treasurer used to go down to City Hall to physically hand over their respective checks. This year, because of the pandemic, the donations took place over Zoom.
The colleges have made the donations together and typically have given equal amounts. Rogers said the two colleges have “tried to not make it an issue between the colleges, but mutual support from the colleges to the city.” Eric Runestad, current Vice President and Treasurer of Carleton, noted the importance of supporting Northfield because “colleges like Carleton depend on the infrastructure of the city.”
Some examples of the college’s use of city services are when a fire alarm goes off in a dorm or a student needs EMS transportation. Appreciating what Northfield offers the college, Runestad underscored that the donation is “a gift; not a payment for services” and is “to try to honor what they [the city of Northfield] provide the college”.
Hanson also noted that since the colleges are tax-exempt institutions, meaning they don’t pay property taxes to the extent that private homeowners do, the donations are “a way for the colleges to support some of the services that we receive as a resident within the city.”
However, support for the city isn’t limited to the annual donations. Both colleges have an impact on Northfield through the jobs they offer and the revenue provided from visiting families eating at local restaurants and staying at hotels.
Additionally, Runestad said the two colleges occasionally make direct donations to the city. These can take the form of a new ambulance or rescue truck purchase, as these are “things the community can benefit from and that our students might require over time.”