Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 17
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
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Schools Budget Rejected: Now What?

Linda Arntzenius

Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education held its monthly public meeting last night in the cafeteria of the John Witherspoon Middle School (after Town Topics press time). On most minds was the defeat of the schools budget in last week's election and the question "what happens now?"

On Tuesday, April 17, Princeton voters rejected the tax levy of $56,185,268 toward the Princeton Regional Schools $76.1 million 2007-2008 budget by a margin of 69 votes.

According to the Mercer County Clerk's office, the determination of whether to cut the budget is up to the Borough and Township, which are not obliged to return to the electorate for approval.

Commenting on Monday, April 23, Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson said: "In the final analysis, the official margin of defeat was 43 votes with a very low voter turnout, about 7 percent of the registered voters in the Borough. The margin of defeat overall was 2.41 percent of the votes cast."

The process for a defeated budget is prescribed by the state in detail: both Princeton municipalities are to form a joint committee to review the budget and meet with a school board committee.

"The municipalities must form a joint resolution and all three parties must take a final, public vote before May 21st to approve the resolution," Ms. Wilson explained. "They are responsible for determining whether or not there should be dollars cut from the budget, if so how much and from what line items."

According to Ms. Wilson, the Board of Education must conform to the dollar amount of cuts determined by the municipalities, but has some latitude in determining whether or not to follow the recommended line items or to take dollars from other line items.

"If there are cuts made, the lower base is the budget from which the 2008-09 budget must be built also," she said. "In essence we cannot recoup the margin of reduction again."

The district has already forwarded all required documentation to Borough and Township officials and is in the process of establishing committees and meeting dates.

According to Ms. Wilson, both municipalites met Monday, April 23, prior to last night's meeting of the Board of Education.


At last night's meeting, new board member and Prospect Avenue resident Dorothy Bedford took her first three-year term seat, along with returning members Mulberry Row resident JoAnn Cunningham and Armour Road resident Alan Hegedus.

Ms. Bedford and Ms. Cunningham represent the Township and Mr Hegedus represents the Borough. Of the 2,061 votes cast in the Township for two seats, incumbent Ms. Cunningham received 38 percent (775) and Ms. Bedford received 33 percent (678). Of the 341 votes cast in the Borough, incumbent Mr. Hegedus received 95 percent (324).

Ms. Bedford has worked in international banking and was formerly executive director for the Christine Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service series. She was executive director of the 250th Anniversary for Princeton University and is active with the special education PTO and as a leader and camping consultant to the Princeton Girls Scouts. She has three daughters, including one currently attending John Witherspoon Middle School.

Ms. Cunningham, who has served as chairwoman of the program committee and is a member of the personnel committee, will serve a third term. During her tenure, she has been liaison to the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance, the Minority Education Committee, and the Mercer County Vocational School. An assistant professor of African-American and Caribbean Studies at William Paterson University, Ms. Cunningham is the mother of one son, Charles, a PHS graduate.

Mr. Hegedus is a former president of Phillips Electronics lighting division. He has served as vice-president of the Board and chair of the finance committee for the last four years. He has also served on the facilities, program, and personnel committees as well as liaison to the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance (PADA). He has two grandchildren who attend Riverside Elementary School.

The budget was accepted by a margin of 31 in the Township, with a tally of 675 for and 644 against, but rejected in the Borough where the tally was 169 for and 269 against.

Full details of the budget can be viewed on the Princeton Regional School District's website at

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