Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 21
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
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Leadership Offered by Mayor Trotman Divides Democrats on Eve of Primary

(3 letters)

School Budget Defeat Reverberations: Frustrated, Angry, and Satirical Voters

(7 Letters)

Leadership Offered by Mayor Trotman Divides Democrats on Eve of Primary

To the Editor:

I've lived in Princeton for more than 30 years, and during that time I've voted for a number of fine local candidates. On June 5 this year, registered Democrats will have the opportunity to vote in the Democratic primary for a candidate who stands out as the best kind of public official: Mildred Trotman, Mayor of Princeton Borough.

I have worked with Mildred Trotman on a number of issues during her many years as a Borough councilwoman, and I've seen how skillfully she handles her more recent role as Mayor. She is smart, responsive, knowledgeable about the issues, open to different points of view, and an excellent problem-solver. She is a Mayor for all Borough residents, not just those in one section of town. She is efficient in expediting the work of the Borough and effective in handling difficult negotiations. She is a leader in working to cut the tax burden we all share.

Princeton needs Mayor Trotman's experienced leadership. We need her ability to bring people together for the common good. We are fortunate that Mayor Trotman is again willing to take on Borough challenges, and we can make sure of her continued leadership by voting for her on June 5.

Bainbridge Street

To the Editor:

Princeton citizens deserve better. They deserve an opportunity to compare mayoral candidates in an open public setting. Time is running short; the primary election is only two weeks away. I understand that the current mayor, Mildred Trotman, has not responded to a League of Women Voters-YWCA offer to host a debate at a time of her choice. The citizens of Princeton Borough deserve a chance to compare the two candidates for the most significant leadership office in Borough government. The Democratic challenger, Kim Pimley, welcomes an open and well-publicized public debate.

Princeton is facing a number of critical issues, including downtown development, escalating taxes, parking, schools, town and gown relations, and increased gang activity. I hope that Mayor Trotman will reconsider her resistance to open public dialogue with Kim Pimley about the challenges facing Princeton.

Westcott Road

To the Editor:

I write this letter in support of Mildred Trotman's candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the mayoral election primary on June 5. This will be an important election given the seriousness of the issues confronting the town. Mayor Trotman's experience from her years of service, first on the Borough Council and now as Mayor, her knowledge of the Borough's history and of the details of the various projects and undertakings over the years, her long familiarity with the struggles confronting our neighborhoods and residents, are all assets we should not lightly dismiss.

Beyond this, Mayor Trotman's demonstrated ability to work pro-actively as a motivator and as a collegial, open-minded, fair arbiter on the Council is the essence of what this job requires. She brings to her work a perceptive intelligence, detailed knowledge, and seriousness of purpose mingled with personal warmth.

I was born in the Borough, met my husband here at college, and have lived here now for 14 years, raising our three children, all of whom have never known any other home town. I still sometimes feel like a neophyte, but I love Princeton very much. My work as a lawyer has given me opportunities to learn even more about Princeton's history. I am proud of our elected, appointed, and salaried officials and staff. They do their best to be fair to all of the people involved and, always, to keep the interests of the citizenry as a whole uppermost. Mayor Trotman exemplifies this excellence and fair-mindedness. She deserves our support as Democratic nominee and as Mayor.

Madison Street

School Budget Defeat Reverberations: Frustrated, Angry, and Satirical Voters

To the Editor:

I voted against the school budget, not because I would deny children a proper education, but because I am fighting for the "right" to live in Princeton after retirement.

For the second year of the past three, school taxes are set to rise by 11 percent or so. A compounded increase of 11 percent per year would double our taxes every six to seven years. A household entering retirement at age 60 could expect four doublings of property tax by age 85, while trying to survive on a relatively "fixed" income.

Princeton residents, please do the math. Multiply your current tax by 16 to see how four doublings will affect you in old age. Makes you want to call a realtor right now. And don't forget the "reassessment" scheduled in the Borough for 2009. When West Windsor and Hopewell Townships reassessed recently, rates went down, but tax bills routinely went up by 30 percent, in one year.

When we last had a double digit school tax increase in 2005, I assured myself that it couldn't happen again. But now it is happening again. Governor Corzine proposed a reasonable 4 percent annual increase cap, but the school officials in Princeton have simply ignored this.

So I and enough others to make a majority voted against the school budget. And now I find that it is up to the political class to adjust the school budget with no more public input. Now I'm worried that the politicians will use outrageously high education tax increases as convenient cover for ridiculously high municipal tax increases.

I say to our elected leaders, please hear the voters. Do whatever you have to do to bring this year's school budget increase into compliance with the Governor's proposed 4 percent annual increase cap. Four percent is almost twice the rate of inflation. That should be enough. And more importantly, at 4 percent annual compounding, it will take 18 years for taxes to double, which is something a retiree can live with.

If the politicians merely window-dress the 11 percent increase that voters rejected, they will have failed their constituents and made a mockery of school budget elections.

Westcott Road

To the Editor:

School Superintendent Judith Wilson doesn't get it. Yes, the public wants property tax reform, but a growing number want school budget reform. The Budget Newsletter of the Princeton Regional Schools was an eye opener. I feel I am paying way over and above the necessities for a good public school system. Some cuts in personnel and programs need to be made.

Lake Lane

Editor's Note: The following is a copy of an "Open Letter to Princeton Residents."

To the Editor:

The Borough Council has circumvented the voter outcome in the recent school budget debate where the outcome was a clear No to the school board's request to approve any additional funds (held by the State) for the Princeton school system.

This is a sham of democracy on the local level and shows arrogance by the Council. All those "similar letters" coming from various sources that Andy Koontz is quoting and using as the reason that the Council ignored the outcome of the No vote are very troubling.

Come on, Borough Council! Our kids are learning about democracy. Let's try to set a good example, not act like a third world country where a select few maintain control over their "subjects" by any devious means necessary.

With more people now leaving Princeton because of escalating taxes, the Borough should be supporting the tax base that exists by encouraging ways of raising revenue and cutting taxes, not spending and leaving it up to the State to try to fix the tax situation.

Mercer Street

To the Editor:

I think Superintendent Wilson and the school board are deluding themselves if they think that some of us residents voted against the school budget only because we were appalled by the size of the proposed tax increase. After all, some of us who are opposed to the rate increase have children and grandchildren in the system, and we appreciate and value the benefits of the Princeton schools.

Many of us who voted against the budget, and this goes for me, voted against it because we have lost confidence in the Superintendent and the Board members. They seem to have made a number of bad judgments over the last several years, and these judgments are a major source of the continuing hike in property taxes.

For example, one of my complaints is that the Board has invested too much money in new school buildings. Was all of the added capacity really necessary in order to assure Princeton quality education? Of course, schools need facilities, and as instruction and curricula change, new facilities have to be added, while others can be abandoned. But if one tours the schools, as I have recently, there is the overwhelming sense of much wasted space, and space that is poorly designed. The added space is also generating a host of auxiliary costs in terms of heating bills, more electricity usage, and more money for janitorial and maintenance expenses. These expenses will increase, and add to the fiscal burden of Princeton residents in future years.

Many Princeton residents have never understood, and I am among them, why the Board chose to renovate all the schools in the system at the same time. Did they really think it would diminish costs over the long run if they addressed all problems at once? This is a common belief among many owners of large building complexes, but it often has not proved accurate. We may be discovering that it was a wrong assumption for the Princeton situation. When will we really find out, and will the Board tell us?

Ms. Wilson, please stop blaming the residents of Princeton, or the State government, for the vote against the school budget. I repeat, in voting against the budget we were trying to make the point that you and the Board, despite your professional training, hard work, and devotion seem often to have lacked common sense. When you generate excessive costs, and give us a shoddy job, it is the public's responsibility to point to the shortcomings. This year's budget proposal indicates that Princeton residents must remain vigilant when next year's budget comes up for a vote.

Gordon Way

To the Editor:

I am writing to show my shock and dismay in learning that the school budget in Princeton has failed.

Superintendent Judith Wilson is quoted as saying she "hears the frustration of the New Jersey taxpayer, not just the Princeton taxpayer." I disagree. Princeton taxpayers are unique in New Jersey, and their frustrations are unique.

The responsibility rests primarily on Princeton University's unwillingness to pay their fair share to our town and Borough. If the University were held to the same standards as individual taxpayers we would have a mind-boggling surplus — not just for the school budget, but for municipal services as well.

Do you hear this, Borough Council? I don't think so.

Springdale Road

To the Editor:

Even though the recent vote on the school budget has received attention in the national press, the local decision makers think that it is business as usual, and the voters can still be safely ignored.

In the past, it seemed futile to vote on a school budget. The odds were so stacked against the voters that it would make no difference what happened at the polls. For example, the poll hours are such that the teachers can vote before going to work, but early morning commuters can't. The outcomes never seemed to be in doubt. Why bother?

Now that the voters have finally realized that they have a voice, we still see evidence that the message didn't get through.

Part of the increase has no impact on "the children" or the "Princeton Experience" but is allocated for a 9 percent increase in salaries and benefits. It would be interesting to see how many voters who are being asked to pay this bill got a 9 percent increase in income last year.

The fact that a $11,000 fee is being paid to an accountant to see how to cut the budget is another slap at the voters. The way that this is done in any business facing a revenue shortfall, is to reduce each kind code by the necessary percentage, and then move money between the kind codes. It's not a lot of fun, but it isn't hard stuff.

A member of the Borough Finance Committee was quoted (Town Topics, May 2) as saying "any reduction will be less than hoped for by those who voted against the budget."

Arrogance like this has to be sent a strong message in future elections.

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

Princeton's school budget was defeated at the polls. The issue is taxes. In recent weeks, Princetonians rich and poor have been talking about the rapidly rising property taxes. Poorer Princetonians are no longer able to pay and may be forced out, but pain is being felt at all levels.

Inflation has been kept under control in recent years by "outsourcing" and the importation of goods from areas of the world with cheap labor. In times past when most common items were manufactured domestically, union agreements kept ratcheting up prices, leading to inflation. Now, most union activity is in the public sector and international competition keeps manufactured goods competitive. Everything from computer boards to teddy bears is made in China. And India, with its high level of education in English can leverage the Internet for cheap communications. Many companies are outsourcing these services to India.

Technological advance is slower to reach the educational establishment. Class size and student ratios haven't changed in a long time.

So, let me make this modest proposal. Let us outsource our public school system! We will not just outsource some purchasing; we'll outsource the students themselves. I've done the math. Charter flights across the globe would only cost a few hundred dollars per student. Dormitories can be built cheaply in third-world countries. India alone has a surplus of college-educated persons underemployed, and they would work at a fraction of the wages of U.S. teachers. So let us send our students away for an international boarding school experience. They will come back educated, cosmopolitan, and, as Richard Gere has learned, there will be no kissing in public. And no American street gangs. Even with room and board, the total cost will be only about half the cost to educate them here. Our students will fly back at the end of the school year. No need for loneliness: with internet telephony, they can call home every night. And if parents want to see them more often, they can pay for interim flights. Otherwise, the public budget will fly them back on a packed charter flight at the end of the school year. Princeton will lead the way toward a revolution across the country, which will soon be known as the "Princeton/Bangalore solution."

(The problem with satire is that sometimes the proposals make sense. Some parents might actually like this option.)

Vandeventer Avenue

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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