Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 13
 
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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Board Approves Tentative Budget, Says Farewell to Two Members

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Regional Board of Education approved a tentative budget for 2008-2009, and said good-bye to board president Michael Mostoller and member Jeffrey Spears at its meeting last Thursday.

Before the vote, School Superintendent Judy Wilson offered a detailed look at the budget, which is available online by going to the PRS website at www.prs.k12.nj.us and clicking on “budget presentation.” Residents of the Township and Borough will have their chance to vote on the budget on April 15, when they will also select two new board members. All Princeton residents were encouraged to vote, and it was noted that absentee ballots are available online at the PRS website.

The goals of the proposed budget, which will run from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, are, according to the website, to “maintain education programs and deliver excellence for all students; offset increases in state-mandated expenses with reductions and efficiencies; propose a budget under the 4 percent state cap on the local tax levy; reduce extremely high class sizes in some core academic courses at the high school, and reduce the costs of the Pre-K program while meeting the needs of children from economically challenged families.”

The total tax levy to support the $72,694,856 budget will be $56,965,650, a 3.32 percent increase over last year. For the Township this represents a 1.03 cent decrease, while the Borough will pay 9.5 cents more in taxes. These figures are based on home sales data collected by the Mercer County Board of Taxation. The budget data and relevant explanations are all available on the “budget presentation” website, mentioned above.

The biggest hike in this year’s budget, noted Ms. Wilson, is the state-mandated 12.4 percent benefits increase for support staff, amounting to $428,418, which, she said, “jumps off the page.” She pointed out that bringing students attending out-of-district schools back into Princeton schools will result in fewer costs in that category. Other economies include a provision for seven fewer support positions; frozen school and departmental budgets; no new “alternative projects,” prospective decreases in utility bills, efforts to pursue “greater efficiency” through consortia memberships, and more focus on grant-seeking. Income from the restructured Pre-K program will be $6,000 per economically-able child in the half-day program, and $12,000 for those attending full-day. Ms. Wilson also cited the Princeton Education Foundation as a source of support, and remarked on PRS’s current “banner year” of awards and achievements.

Board member Alan Hegedus congratulated Ms. Wilson on the “well-presented” budget, noting that it achieved the “best balance to all constituencies — children, parents, property owners, and teachers.”

Words of Thanks

Thursday marked the last public meeting for Mr. Mostoller, who has been a board member for six years, and Jeffrey Spear, a nine-year veteran. Both received “proclamations of appreciation” amid many reminiscences and words of thanks for their contributions.

Board member Walter Bliss, along with Daniel Haughton and Naomi Perlman will vie for two Township seats in the April 15 election, while Timothy Quinn will run unopposed for the Borough seat being vacated by Mr. Mostoller. A School Board Candidates’ Night, sponsored by the Special Education PTO, will be held on Tuesday, April 8 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in the library of the John Witherspoon Middle School. The public is invited to attend.

Summer Program

Board member Mia Cahill reported on a Summer Enrichment Program that will be available to children in grades 4 through 12 this coming summer. Describing it as a “creative” program in a “camp-like setting,” she said that it would include six-week courses for approximately $150 a week, with scholarships available for those who need them. Applications, which will be sent home with students on April 2, will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Details are available at http://www.prs.k12.nj.us/Curriculum/Summer/.

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