Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 19
 
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
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Non-binding Mediation Offers Borough no Solution With Downtown Developer

ROGER MARTINDELL
Member, Borough Council
Prospect Avenue

Arts Council Thanks Planners, Sponsors for “Spectacular” Communiversity 2008

MICHAEL LARICCIA
Program/PR Manager
Arts Council of Princeton

Annual Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis This Saturday in Mercer County Park

MARY and PAUL GERARD
Talbot Lane

Charter School Spending Per Student Is 67 to 84 Percent of District’s Rate

MAUREEN P. QUIRK
President, Board of Trustees
Princeton Charter School
Hartley Avenue


Non-binding Mediation Offers Borough no Solution With Downtown Developer

To the Editor:

Princeton Borough’s on-again, off-again negotiations with its downtown developer, Nassau HKT Urban Renewal Associates, LLC, is taking a risky turn that jeopardizes the interest of the Borough taxpayer.

Appropriately, several months ago the Borough informed the developer that NHKT must fully honor its promises as memorialized in the May 2004 Redevelopment Agreement. But, with the Phase 2 of the project at the Tulane Street parking lot still stymied, the Borough now has also informed NHKT that the Borough seeks non-binding mediation regarding its differences with NHKT.

This poses a contradiction: mediation necessarily implies that the Borough expects to back away from the terms of the very 2004 Redevelopment Agreement that the Borough says it requires NHKT to honor.

Such backing away can only cost the Borough taxpayer. For example, according to the Redevelopment Agreement, NHKT was to commence paying ground rent on Phase 2 of the development as of April 2006. But NHKT has not made the payments, causing the Borough to lose $15,000 per month in anticipated revenue, for a total of $360,000 presently due. NHKT refuses to pay the claim (while at the same time it seeks to wrest further concessions from the Borough preparatory to launching construction of Phase 2).

Non-binding mediation is far riskier for the Borough than NHKT. By committing itself to mediation, the Borough signals to NHKT that it will back down from its demand for ground rent dating back to April 2006. Why else mediate? But NHKT signals nothing by agreeing to mediation: whatever the mediation’s outcome, NHKT can simply ignore it, just as it has ignored every Borough demand for ground rent to date. The asymmetry places the Borough at a disadvantage in the ongoing negotiations.

There are reasonable alternatives to non-binding mediation. First, the Borough might simply allow NHKT to proceed with the development on the condition that the developer fully honor its obligations under the 2004 Redevelopment Agreement by a date certain (say, June 1) and, if NHKT fails to do so, then declare NHKT in default. Upon NHKT’s default, the Borough might either abandon Phase 2 of the project or sell it to another developer.

Second, Mayor and Council might make the case, in open public meetings, why it is optimal for Phase 2 of the project to proceed with NHKT as the developer, despite all the concessions demanded of the Borough by NHKT. Clearly, after three years of inaction by NHKT, Borough taxpayers deserve a reasoned analysis and debate concerning the stalled project and the propriety of the Borough continuing with NHKT.

In all events, the best option at this time for resolution is not non-binding mediation behind closed doors. That’s especially true in a project delayed as long as this one, with the developer so much in arrears in its obligations to Borough taxpayers. More decisive action is needed. Public discussion is imperative.

ROGER MARTINDELL
Member, Borough Council
Prospect Avenue

Arts Council Thanks Planners, Sponsors for “Spectacular” Communiversity 2008

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Arts Council of Princeton, I want to thank everyone — including our more than 25,000 visitors — who helped to make Communiversity 2008 such a spectacular event on a beautiful day.

When the Arts Council and the Princeton University undergraduates plan Communiversity each year, we envision a town meets gown event with something for everyone: diverse music and dance, engaging children’s activities, and outstanding artistry, food, and nonprofit organizations. I would like to thank all of the Arts Council staff and volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the Arts Council’s activity area a success.

Many thanks to Princeton University Band, the Princeton Police and Fire Department, Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, Princeton Regional Health Department, Princeton Borough, our event planner, Grayson Bridge Communications & Events, ĘBank of America, Palmer Square Management, our corporate sponsors, and all of our wonderful volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you!

MICHAEL LARICCIA
Program/PR Manager
Arts Council of Princeton

Annual Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis This Saturday in Mercer County Park

To the Editor:

Please join us at the West Picnic Area of Mercer County Park this Saturday, May 10 for the annual Great Strides Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis. This event has remained popular in the hearts of Princeton for the past 13 years. Last year our Great Strides Walk contributed $150,000 to the national effort to cure CF.

Thanks to the generosity of the people of Princeton, 99 percent of the money we raise goes to research. On a national basis 93 percent of the money raised by the CF Foundation is directed to research.

With the help of the people of Princeton we can change the meaning of the initials CF from Cystic Fibrosis to Cure Found. Those wishing to participate may register at Mercer County Park at 11 a.m. on Saturday or online at www.cff.org. Simply click on Great Strides and go to New Jersey at Mercer County Park.

We will have refreshments, entertainment, and prizes to benefit this worthy cause.

Thank you.

MARY and PAUL GERARD
Talbot Lane

Charter School Spending Per Student Is 67 to 84 Percent of District’s Rate

To the Editor,

That Princeton Charter School’s per pupil funding will decline next year may come as a surprise to those who have read the newspapers or the budget information mailed to Township and Borough residents. The new funding formula for public schools will give Princeton Charter School only $14,100 per student next year, 8 percent less than the $15,368 the school receives this year. What has happened is not that the charter school’s funding has gone up, but that funds that used to come from state taxes will now come almost entirely from local taxes, as they did prior to 2001.

The funding for charter schools in New Jersey is computed using an estimate of 90 percent of the ‘program’ portion of the local district’s expenditure per pupil. This program expenditure does not include what the district spends on facilities. Thus Princeton Charter School’s funding is only 67 to 84 percent (varying by year) of the total spent per child by the district schools, when facilities and other non-program expenses are included.

Charter schools must be fiscally prudent and manage to deliver their program and pay for their facilities more efficiently than local districts, at a net savings to the taxpayers, whether the source of funds is state or local taxes.

The following chart shows the history of funding for students in grades 1 to 5 at Princeton Charter School. The PCS numbers are the actual amount received per pupil in these grades. The district numbers, which include program and facilities expenditures, are from the published state report cards. The 2006-07 number for Princeton Regional (the latest available) is an estimate; the audited amount will not be published until February 2009.

YearCharter School
Total Funding
District School
Total Expenses
Percentage
of Total
 PCSPRS 
1997-1998
1998-1999
1999-2000
2000-2001
2001-2002
2002-2003
2003-2004
2004-2005
2005-2006
2006-2007
2007-2008
2008-2009
6350
8191
8925
8664
10182
10182
10650
11478
12662
14075
15368
14100
9545
11663
10642
11718
13604
13740
14946
15942
17007
16809
N/A
N/A
67%
70%
84%
74%
75%
74%
71%
72%
74%
84%
 
 

MAUREEN P. QUIRK
President, Board of Trustees
Princeton Charter School
Hartley Avenue

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