Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 17
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
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Defeated Schools Budget Set for Municipal Review; Cutbacks Will Be Minimal

Matthew Hersh

The Princeton Borough and Township voters who prevailed last week in voting down the proposed $56 million budget for Princeton Regional Schools will likely be disappointed at any new revision as municipal officials indicated this week that there is little to cut.

The budget, which passed in the Township 675 to 644, but failed in the Borough 269 to 195, will now be subjected to special municipal committees designed to examine it and subsequently submit a revised budget to the office of the Mercer County Superintendent of Schools no later than May 21.

It was the first time since 1991 that Princeton voters rejected the school budget.

What is likely to occur, for now, is that the respective finance committees in the Borough and Township will work with a contracted accountant to finesse a new budget. But those looking for a windfall in tax reductions, after voting down 16-cent tax increases in the Borough and 10-cent hikes in the Township, are likely to be disappointed, said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi:

"There is probably not going to be a significant further reduction in that tax increase by reviewing the school board's budget," he said, pointing to a limited portion of he budget that can be reexamined. "Not everything is up for grabs here. So much of what we have are things that were accumulated from past years and we can't impact those.

"Those things are all off limits."

And while there is a limited amount the municipalities can go after, the district still needs to provide the state's definition of "thorough and efficient education," Mr. Bruschi said, though he acknowledged that a "separate set of eyes looking over budgetary line items might be beneficial."

Borough Council was expected to address the school budget Tuesday night after Town Topics press time, but the Township on Monday night agreed to form a subcommittee, presumably composed of the Township's finance committee — Mayor Phyllis Marchand and Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller — and an alternate member. The Borough's finance committee is composed of Council President Peggy Karcher and Councilman Roger Martindell. Township Committee also agreed to split the $11,500 cost of a certified public accountant with the Borough.

"This is an unexpected process," said Township administrator James Pascale. "As soon as the budget was defeated, we had to move quickly."

Township Committeeman Chad Goerner echoed Mr. Bruschi saying that a review could help future budgets: "I think that it helps us in determining and forging perspectives, not only on this year's budget, but in future years as well."

Mr. Bruschi said it was "unfortunate" that the school board provides the only budget subjected to voter review. "You don't get to vote on the local, state, or county budget, but you do get to vote on your school budget — so it's the only place where you can make your statement."

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