Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 15
 
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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Grateful for Past Support, Non-Profit Faces Uncertain Future with Anxiety

CAROL L. OLIVERI
Executive Director
Health Care Ministry of Princeton

Borough Council Member Explains Rationale For Extending CBD Parking Rates to Sunday

Kevin Wilkes ’83
Member Borough Council

Correspondents’ Consensus: Responsible School Budget Deserves Voter Support

(3 Letters)


Grateful for Past Support, Non-Profit Faces Uncertain Future with Anxiety

To the Editor:

The current economic situation is cause for much anxiety for those of us involved with non-profit organizations. The Health Care Ministry of Princeton is a non-profit organization assisting the elderly to remain independent in their homes as long as that is safely possible. As its director, I share many of the anxieties other non-profit directors have. I wonder how much greater the demand will be for our services as the elderly we serve may not be able to afford other services or may need to reallocate how they spend money and look to our organization for more assistance. I wonder how our pool of volunteers will be affected as current volunteers may have less time for charity or potential volunteers may need to consider employment instead of volunteering. I wonder whether we will receive the financial support we need through charitable donations or grants from foundations.

So far, the response of the Princeton community has been strong. Regarding our need for manpower, individuals continue to sign up as volunteers helping us to provide our services. Throughout the community we receive moral support from those who may not be able to contribute financially or may not have enough time to volunteer. I recently sent out our spring fundraising letter and await the response with some anxiety. I hope we will continue to receive the level of support we have received in the past as we need people to spread the word to others about our work, people to provide financial support, and volunteers to give their time to help us provide basic services such as health and medical transportation, food shopping, friendly visiting, and caregiver support.

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our founding. Through 25 years, so many faithful and generous supporters have made our work possible. I hope the entire community will celebrate this milestone and take pride in having an organization such as ours within the community making a difference every day in the lives of the elderly. Thank you, Princeton, for all the support you have given to us for 25 years. Please visit our website at www.healthcareministry.org to learn more about our work.

CAROL L. OLIVERI
Executive Director
Health Care Ministry of Princeton

Borough Council Member Explains Rationale For Extending CBD Parking Rates to Sunday

To the Editor:

It pains us on Borough Council to have to balance the budget of Princeton Borough by extending metered parking rates to Sunday in the CBD. We wish that we had some other options.

We could vote to raise the property taxes on all property owners in the Borough — or at least those who actually have to pay their taxes — but there is a structural unfairness to that calculation. Over 50 percent of Borough properties are held by non-profit institutions that are not required to pay property tax. So that leaves the lesser half to pay for the operating costs of the entire community. And this burden on the shoulders of those remaining taxpayers is increasing.

An example of this trend: last year Princeton University renovated the former Springdale Golf Course Clubhouse into offices for the Food Services staff. This year they removed the building from the Borough’s tax rolls. This process netted the managers of the University’s dining halls posh offices with a golf course view but it cost Borough taxpayers almost $37,000 in annual property tax revenue. The future undoubtedly holds for more of the same.

So, I supported extending parking meters to the CBD on Sundays and raising our garage rates on Sundays, instead of raising property taxes. But at the same time I know this action hurts the most precious resource of Princeton’s Downtown: our retail merchants and our restaurants and bars. It is not fair to them; it can only be defended as sharing the financial pain in which we all find ourselves at this moment.

There is much talk about consolidation, but what we need more, even more urgently, is to form a constructive partnership with the three “governments” of our community working together in harmony. Yes, Princeton University is our third government. It must be actively engaged in new partnership structures that allow it to invest with us in planning, building and managing the future of our wonderful town.

Right now, my alma mater needs to do more, much more, to participate financially in the downtown, in the well-being of the merchants and in the well-being of the citizens of Princeton Borough.

I invite the merchants to join with the property owners of the downtown and with all of the townspeople who care about tax fairness to come to the Suzanne Patterson Center on April 26 at 4 p.m. Please come and participate in a conversation about tax equity and listen to our call for a new equilibrium in Princeton.

Kevin Wilkes ’83
Member Borough Council

Correspondents’ Consensus: Responsible School Budget Deserves Voter Support

To the Editor:

Princeton has long prided itself, and justly so, for its dedication to the education of children. Witness to this legacy comes with the recent celebration of our 150-year history, with marvelous memorabilia on display at the high school. The long-term achievement of high academic standards for all students, coupled with social and civil rights leadership, is stunning in its breadth.

The question before the citizens and taxpayers today is whether the current concerns brought by the national and state fiscal crisis will be allowed to interrupt this historic record of achievement. Our children learn best when quality education is provided as a continuum. Decisions and resource commitments made years ago become the foundation for today’s excellence.

As school board president, I can assure all voters, taxpayers, students, and their parents that your elected board has worked thoughtfully with the school administration to develop the proposed 2009-10 budget. Productivity gains and cost efficiencies developed over recent years are coming to fruition, allowing program stability with very minimal cost increases. We believe that we have achieved our goal of maintaining without compromise the legacy of excellence we have come to expect from Princeton schools while being fully sensitive to the ongoing financial hardships endured by our taxpayers.

We do appreciate the extraordinary community support for the work of the schools, and urge you to vote for continued excellence on April 21 as represented by the submitted budget.

ALAN K. HEGEDUS
President, School Board
Princeton Regional School District

To the Editor:

In September, 3,400 students will enter the doors of the Princeton Regional Schools for a new year of learning. Each year of school for them is an opportunity that they will have once. Our schools must be prepared.

The Princeton Regional Schools’ administrators and Board of Education members have responded responsibly and appropriately to the current economic climate. The total operating expenses, $74.2 million, will be increasing by less than 1 percent this year. That part of the school budget that will be paid for by local taxes (after state aid, tuition, and other revenues), $58 million, is increasing by 1.68 percent. While the district has obligations including state mandates and contractual costs that are increasing by much more (as much as 4 percent), to get the overall budget down they have made cuts by consolidating transportation routes, reducing energy costs through efficiencies, bringing more students previously placed in out-of-district programs to in-district programs, reducing all school and department budgets, and cutting staff.

We encourage voters to do their part and get to the polls on Tuesday, April 21 and vote for the budget that will ensure that the Princeton public schools will be providing the programs needed to educate our children. As we have seen in elections across the country, every vote counts. Make yours count for public education and for the children of the Princeton community.

JANE MURPHY and CHARLES KARNEY
Prospect Avenue
JACKIE and PETER REA
Southern Way

To the Editor:

When I ran for the Township School Board seat last year, two key issues of my platform were to maintain the excellent quality of the Princeton Regional Schools that we’ve all come to expect, and to promote fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of public funds.

While we faced the worst economic crisis in decades during this year’s budget process, the PRS Board unanimously approved a budget that promotes both these goals. The overall operating budget increase is less than 1 percent, well below the state-mandated cap of 4 percent. This translates into an actual tax increase of only $29 for the average home in the Township with an assessed value of $434,000.

Without contractual agreements for salary and benefits and other state mandates, the budget that the Board controls is actually down nearly 2 percent from last year. We cut $1.3 million in expenses with no elimination of any academic, sports, or fine arts programs.

Despite a conservative budget for these tough economic times, approval at the April 21 election is no sure bet. A community-wide commitment to outstanding education is what differentiates Princeton from other communities, and I ask all voters to help maintain the high quality of our schools by voting “Yes” for the School Budget on April 21.

DAN HAUGHTON
Princeton Regional Schools
Board Member, 2008-2011

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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