Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
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School Board Adopts Tentative Budget, New Board Candidates Welcomed

Ellen Gilbert

At its monthly meeting last week the Princeton Regional Board of Education adopted a tentative budget amounting to $72,547,296 for the 2008-09 school year. Under a proposed 3.32 percent tax increase, $56,965,650 of this amount will come from taxpayers.

The proposed budget represents a one-cent tax rate increase in the Township and a 9.5-cent increase in the Borough. A discrepancy between the rate at which houses in the Borough and Township are changing (borough homes are said to be decreasing in value less quickly than township houses) accounts for a slightly higher rate of taxation for the Borough this year. The Township will still shoulder the largest proportion of the $1.8 million increase, with approximately $600,000 coming from the Borough and $1.2 million from the Township.

Earlier in the week, the district was able to lower its previous estimate of the tax increase, which had been 3.6 percent, after learning about an unexpected increase in charter school aid from the state. The total budget increase over last year would be 5.2 percent. Last year’s budget, which represented a $56 million tax levy, was narrowly approved by the Township, and rejected by the Borough. This year’s proposed tax increase is well under the state-recommendation of 4 percent.

Budget hearings are scheduled for March 20. The Township and the Borough will vote on the proposed budget on April 15.

Candidates Present

The presence of candidates for open board positions to be chosen in the upcoming April 15 election was acknowledged by Board President Michael Mostoller. Candidates include Borough resident Timothy Quinn, who will be running for Mr. Mostoller’s seat, and Township residents Daniel Haughton and Naomi Perlman, who will run against incumbent Walter Bliss.

The meeting included, in addition to the budget action, reports of rising AP scores and participation in AP classes in the high school, a presentation on the high school’s wetland habitat, and a description of grade-by-grade participation in service projects at Littlebrook Elementary School. There was also a report on the noteworthy success of the “Idea Center,” a high school tutoring initiative that began seven years ago with support from a grant obtained through board member Jeffrey Spear.

After the announcement of a proposed McGill University-sponsored research project that would involve collecting PRS students’ DNA to identify possible vulnerability to depression drew some expressions of concern over confidentiality, more details on the project were requested.

Money Matters

Rebecca Cox, a board member from the Borough, suggested that the board meet in a revenue-raising workshop. School Superintendent Judy Wilson remarked on the “good job done” to date in raising money for the school, particularly with the help of the Princeton Education Foundation. Alan Hegedus, another board member from the Borough, suggested that the question of a “tax-exempt institution in this town” be considered in the proposed revenue-raising discussion, implying that the University was not pulling its weight in supporting the community. Board member Joshua Leinsdorf disagreed, describing the University’s “generosity” toward the school district and public library.

Calendar Query

Mr. Leinsdorf expressed some displeasure with the proposed 2008-2009 school calendar, noting that only half of the 40 five-day weeks are without any early dismissals. He suggested that the teachers’ union endorse the elimination of the traditional days off for a mid-year convention, which, he said were “harmful” and “interruptive,” especially in light of the coming year’s unusually long winter break. The calendar was approved, with Mr. Leinsdorf as the only dissenting vote.

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