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Borough Looks to Change School Tax Rate in Princeton

Candace Braun

In an effort to show residents where many of their tax dollars are going, Borough Council voted 6-0 to pass a resolution that would correct an apparent disparity in tax dollars the Borough and Township pay for the school district's tax levy.

Currently Princeton residents pay school taxes based on individual property values in each community; however, the resolution looks to make each municipality pay taxes on a per-student basis.

While Council passed the resolution at its May 11 meeting, the ordinance must also be approved by the Township Committee. Then it must receive a favorable vote throughout the district on a referendum.

It is unlikely that a change will take place to alter the placement of taxes in the Borough and Township since the change would cause the Township to pay more than it already does in school taxes. However Councilman David Goldfarb brought the ordinance before Council to make a point to Township that the Borough is paying more than its fair share.

"I think it's important to adopt this resolution and show the Township that we're paying $4.5 million more per year than we should have to," Mr. Goldfarb said.

According to Mr. Goldfarb's report, the Borough is paying 31 percent of the overall $51 million tax levy for the 2004-2005 school year, even though the Borough only has 22 percent of the district's student population living within its boundaries, or 794 students.

In contrast, the Township pays 68 percent of the tax burden for its 2,670 students. Township students represent 77 percent of the total number of pupils in the district.

Borough property owners will pay $20,409 per student in the upcoming school year, while the Township will pay only $12,964 per student. The Borough's cost per student will be 57 percent higher than the Township's cost, Mr. Goldfarb's report stated.

While Council members agreed unanimously to pass the resolution, most voiced an understanding that the resolution would merely make a point to Township rather than actually induce some sort of change.

Councilman Roger Martindell voted in favor of the resolution, but said he would like to find a way to propose legislation that would actually correct the imbalance.

Mr. Goldfarb said he would like to see a true change take place, however, "I don't think it's going to get very far."

In order to effect this change in taxes formally, the Princeton Regional School Board would have to schedule a referendum vote. But it is unlikely such a vote would win since there are more voters in the Township than the Borough.

Councilwoman Wendy Benchley said her vote was merely to provide the Township with what she felt was important information.

Councilman Andrew Koontz said the resolution was "right on target" for what it set out to do.

The resolution will now be sent to the Township Committee, along with an explanatory letter written by Mayor Joe O'Neill.

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