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Borough Gets Additional $250K From University

Matthew Hersh

Princeton University has agreed to give Princeton Borough $250,000 to assist the municipality in various capital improvements.

The move comes at a time when the Borough has undergone a financial crisis that was "hidden" in the economic boom of the 1990s, causing low interest rates, according to an August 6 letter from Mayor Joseph O'Neill to Shirley Tilghman, University president.

"We are finding it increasingly difficult to finance the maintenance and reconstruction of the physical infrastructure of our roads, sewers, parks, and recreation areas," read the letter.

The additional funds will bring the total dollar amount of the University's 2005 contribution to the Borough to $741,000. The amount includes the already agreed-upon 2005 contributions of $350,000 plus $141,000 on behalf of McCarter and Berlind theaters.

In a September 16 letter responding to the Borough's concerns, Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary of the University, said that recent financial contributions to various in-town entities such as the library and Princeton Regional Schools, in addition to the University's agreement with the Borough, will now go to the municipality. The Borough will be able to spend that money as it sees fit.

In the past, the University has stipulated how the Borough spends various capital gifts. For example, monies given by the University for Monument Drive and the new square adjacent to the library were appropriated specifically for those projects. Mr. Durkee's letter pointed out, however, that the University is asking how the money will be spent only after that has been determined by the Borough.

"While we understand that this contribution is most likely to be directed to significant physical infrastructure repairs," the letter said, "we leave the choice of projects to be supported by these funds to [the mayor] and members of Borough Council, asking only that you keep us informed about which projects are being supported."

Mayor O'Neill also cited the need for the Borough to keep pace with the University as it continues to grow. He worried that the University will continue its rate of expansion – roughly a million square feet per decade since World War II, he said – without concurrent increases in the Borough infrastructure's "ability to handle the demands being made upon it."

As a non-profit, educational institution, the University is not required to pay property taxes on any property that supports its academic missions.

The current Borough/University agreement, arrived at in 2002, calls for an annual contribution to the Borough. That agreement, however will expire in 2006 and is being revisited in renewal negotiations. The current agreement calls for $350,000 in 2005 and $400,000 in 2006, plus the annual contributions for McCarter and Berlind.

While Mayor O'Neill conceded in his letter that such discussions regarding more money could wait until next year, he said he would like to see "a more structured form of consultation between the Borough and the University so that we might accommodate [the University's] growth and development in an atmosphere of cooperation, not conflict."

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