Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 12
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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Township Committee Meeting Features Presenting of PRS Budget, Watershed Report

Ellen Gilbert

Presentations on the Princeton Regional School District’s 2009-2010 budget and the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association’s Municipal Assessment of Princeton Township highlighted Monday evening’s Township Committee meeting.

Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman and several members of Borough Council were present for Superintendent Judy Wilson’s description of the tentative budget that the Board of Education had unanimously adopted at a special meeting on March 17. (For details see lead story.)

Ms. Wilson emphasized the Board’s two goals: to “be responsive to the critical issues of the current economy and taxpayers’ concerns,” and to “put us into some type of stable position for the next two years.” Describing an economic climate unlike any other year she has experienced, Ms. Wilson noted that the state’s four percent cap on tax levies was now unimaginable; this year’s suggested increase is 1.68 percent, which, after a 20-year old $530,000 debt service is retired, will result in an overall budget increase of .69 percent.

Although Governor Corzine’s proposed state budget had a slight increase in state aid to education, Princeton will experience a slight decrease in extraordinary aid for special education, and $30,000 less in Charter School aid, Ms. Wilson reported.

Stipulations regarding Federal stimulus dollars are still unclear, although it appears that a construction allocation of $140,000 will be available for small, energy-saving projects, and that there will probably be some aid for students with socioeconomic and special education needs. None of this, however, could be built into local budgets, Ms. Wilson noted, because details are not yet available.

Fall enrollment is also uncertain, she observed, noting predictions that as a result of the economy, fewer students will be going to private schools. Should that happen, she said, PRS will be able to accommodate an increased enrollment.

As she did at the March 17 meeting, Ms. Wilson emphasized that the disparity in tax levy increases between the Borough and the Township was not a function of the school budget, noting that this is “a very difficult concept for people to understand.”

School Board candidates in the coming elections include Township resident Mia Cahill in an uncontested race for her second term, and incumbent Rebecca Cox, Dudley Sipprelle, and Charles Kalmbach vying for two seats from the Borough. Ms. Wilson encouraged residents of both municipalities to vote on April 21, noting that there was a mere 14 percent turn-out for the last election. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m., and every registered voter will receive a sample ballot showing the location of polling places, which will also be listed on the PRS website prior to the election.

In response to Deputy Mayor Chad Goerner’s question about “the capital side of the budget,” with respect, for example, to the Valley Road Building, Ms. Wilson said that this year’s capital budget has only “very basic” projects in it, and that the only proposed Valley Road Building project would involve installing energy-efficient windows. The much-discussed potential demolition of part of the building would definitely not be occurring this year, she said, and considerable planning for the building remains to be done.

In the public portion of the meeting, former Township mayor Jim Floyd expressed appreciation that Minority Education Committee support was not affected by budget cuts.

In his municipal assessment presentation, Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association Executive Director Jim Waltman offered proposals for “next steps” that the Township might take to regain its stature as an “early leader” in environmental initiatives. He noted that other towns in the region have been more aggressive in adopting measures like net density provisions and higher open space tax rates. Suggested areas for improvement in Princeton, according to the report, include special resources areas protection; low impact development; traffic and transportation measures; flood and stormwater mitigation; and groundwater protection. Mr. Waltman noted that former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed has expressed interest in incorporating the Association’s recommendations into the Borough’s master plan. Mayor Bernie Miller proposed that the report be referred to the Planning Board “as a first step.”

The next meeting of the Princeton Township Committee will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 6, at the Township Municipal Building.

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