Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 9
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Weather Forecast

School Forecast: “Stormy Weather” Amid Budget Woes

Ellen Gilbert

Alan Hegedus was not referring to the current spate of snowstorms in the area when he spoke of “stormy weather” at last week’s School Board meeting. What he meant was the “fiscal duress that we’re all under” as a result of the troubled economy and Governor Chris Christie’s recent budget cuts. “Hard work is being done to maintain this school system,” the school board president observed. 

Superintendent Judy Wilson concurred, describing the current budget situation as “tougher than it has been in any of the five years” she’s been working in the district. The declaration of a “fiscal state of emergency” by Mr. Christie means, she said, that consequent state aid reductions will result in the use of a $1.68 million surplus originally intended for “tax payer relief.”

In addition to coping with state cuts, Ms. Wilson cited a downturn in revenues for the district, including tuition from Cranbury students who no longer attend Princeton High School in the numbers they once did. Even with a “zero increase” in the budget, made possible by “many anticipated cuts,” the coming budget will still require a tax increase for Borough and Township residents, she said. The overall goal, both she and Mr. Hegedus noted, is to “maintain our tradition of excellence.”

With the governor’s State of the State address scheduled for March 16, final budget preparation will be made relatively late in the year, and in a short window of time. Ms. Wilson anticipates filing the budget on March 22, and holding a hearing for it at the Board’s March 25 meeting. Area residents will have their say in an April 20 election. Finance Committee Chair Dorothy Bedford added that there will be a Budget Workshop on Wednesday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Valley Road Building.

Bright spots in the superintendent’s report included the positive reception of school events, including several concerts, related to Black History Month; a successful “Hearts to Haiti” fundraiser organized by students; and the recent tour of China made by the PHS orchestra. Another musical coup is the high school jazz band’s March 5 performance at Carnegie Hall.

Princeton High School student Max Chen and classmates reported on “Project Stand Together.” Now in its second year, the program’s goal is to encourage better recycling habits among members of the high school community, to make it “a more sustainable place.”

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