Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 32
 
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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District Will Revisit State Allocation of Unrequested Funds

Ellen Gilbert

The Christie Administration recently announced that the Princeton Regional School (PRS) District is eligible to receive $254,920 in state funds through Regular Operating Districts (ROD) facilities grants — although, according to Board of Education President Rebecca Cox, PRS did not apply for the money.

“The board voted to not apply for the ROD grant in the spring, and to fund the entire amount from our capital improvement budget,” Ms. Cox said. “The State processed the request anyway, and the ROD grant will be on the August 31 agenda seeking board approval.”

Ms. Cox explained that the board originally voted not to apply for the grant “because we expected the state to charge 1.5 percent interest on the funds. Since then, however, the Department of Education told us it that it plans not to assess interest on the funds.”

“The grant will help offset part of our expenses for upgrading middle and high school classrooms with new audio and video equipment, similar to recent upgrades at the elementary schools,” added Ms. Cox. “This technology will complement what our teachers do so well naturally, and will broaden our students’ experience beyond the classroom by incorporating video, multimedia, and the Internet into daily lessons.”

Superintendent Judy Wilson was on vacation and not available for comment, although Board Secretary Stephanie Kennedy corroborated Ms. Cox’s comments.

According to the State’s announcement, available funding allocations for PRS’s eligible projects are based on the $254,920 State share and $382,380 to be funded locally, for an estimated total project cost of $637,300.

Grants are approved by the Department of Education (DOE) in fixed annual allocations based on a prioritization process that reportedly considers “critical needs,” such as health, safety, special education, renewal of existing buildings and overcrowding. Types of construction include capital maintenance, renovation, expansion and new facilities.

Statewide, 177 school districts are eligible for approximately $270 million in state funds toward the cost of 740 capital maintenance and construction projects under the ROD program.

“Efficient, up-to-date school facilities are a priority of this administration and part of ensuring New Jersey children receive a quality education,” said Governor Chris Christie. “These grants will fund critical projects across our state, helping to improve the learning environments for our students and providing necessary support to districts by easing their local property-tax burden.”

“This funding for school improvements will help school districts keep their facilities properly maintained and ease the burden on local property taxpayers of doing so,” added Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler.

DOE determines which school projects receive grant funds from the Schools Development Authority (SDA), which currently has a portfolio of 1,126 ongoing grant projects in the RODs. Including state and local contributions, the 740 eligible projects are estimated to cost approximately $697 million and would generate as many as 6,000 jobs over the duration of construction. The state-funded grants represent at least 40 percent of eligible costs for projects in the Regular Operating Districts. These grants are contingent on voter or budget approval of the remaining cost to local school districts.

“The Schools Development Authority is proud to support Governor Christie and his administration’s continued commitment to the future of New Jersey’s schoolchildren,” said SDA Chief Executive Officer Marc Larkins. “By providing hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state aid, this administration is further infusing the state’s economy with much-needed job support, and we are pleased to serve as a catalyst toward economic recovery.”

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