Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 45
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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School Board Discusses Budget Worries, Hears Positive Audit Report

Ellen Gilbert

Anxiety about money was the pervasive theme at last week’s Princeton Regional Board of Education meeting. President Alan Hegedus began by observing that awareness of “taxpayers under duress” and a state government that is less likely to support municipalities will weigh heavily on the board’s budget preparation process this year. 

A November 11 school board workshop is intended to begin budget planning discussions “not just for the coming year,” said Mr. Hegedus, but with an eye toward taking “systemic action” that will improve the process over the next several years. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Valley Road building.

A positive note was struck on Tuesday evening with Scott Clelland’s audit report on the district. Mr. Clelland, Wiis & Company’s partner in charge of public sector services, said that he found “nothing to lose sleep over” in Princeton Regional School’s (PRS) financial records for last year, rendering a “clean opinion,” and the judgment that the district is in “very good” financial shape. The district received a certificate of excellence for financial reporting for the 11th year in a row. Mr. Clelland noted that the recent spate of State regulations regarding accountability (“we’re looking at $20 items”) has made the auditing process more difficult. Superintendent Judy Wilson attributed the success of the process on PRS’s side to Business Administrator’s Stephanie Kennedy’s “hour-to-hour” vigilance about these changes. The board voted unanimously to accept the report.

Ms. Wilson also reported that the Princeton Education Foundation had obtained a $20,000 grant from the Concordia Foundation to support PRS’s Mathematics Residency Program, which instructs kindergarten through fifth grade teachers on how to implement a new math curriculum. “Many hundreds of students and many faculty will benefit from this fabulous award,” she commented.

Board member Josh Leinsdorf began his report on recent Finance Committee activities by observing that “everybody’s in trouble.” He reiterated Mr. Hegedus’s comments about beginning the budget planning process in the context of financial challenges to both the private and public sector.

The district’s effort to close the achievement gap between white and minority students will be the focus of the next Minority Education Committee meeting on November 17, when Ms. Wilson and other district administrators will respond to questions prepared by the committee earlier this summer. Chair Tim Quinn reported that the committee would reconvene at a special follow-up meeting on November 24, to discuss the results.

The next board meeting will be Wednesday, November 25, at 8 p.m. in the John Witherspoon Middle School cafeteria.

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