A referendum to support proposed school building improvements at a total cost of approximately $10.9 million will be on the ballot for Princeton voters this September 24. If passed, the Board of Education has estimated the tax impact of the bond at less than $155 annually for the average assessed home in Princeton.
New Jersey school districts hold public referendum votes to seek approval of dedicated funding to improve and upgrade school facilities. If approved by Princeton voters, this funding can only be used for the designated school improvements.
On a district-wide basis, the improvements С and what they hope to accomplish С include replacing selected mechanical units and controls for more efficient operation of mechanical systems to reduce operating costs; lighting and controls upgrades to enhance energy efficiency and reduce operating costs; replacement of roofing at older sections of roofs; exterior upgrades including doors, windows and security; and selected paving, drainage, and upgrading of playgrounds and ball fields. Interior upgrades include flooring, casework and door replacement; and IT and network upgrades.
At Princeton High School, track and field upgrades will be made with bleacher and press box replacement. Other proposed improvements include brick re-pointing to repair areas of masonry to address leaks and deterioration; classroom upgrades to floors and ceilings; fixed furnishings replacement; an enhancement of the Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant ramp at main entrance for increased accessibility; emergency generator circuit upgrades; and locker replacement at selected locations.
A new media center and renovations to the old library are being proposed for John Witherspoon Middle School, along with audio, lighting, seating, and air-conditioning improvements in the auditorium. A new generator will operate key systems within the school in the case of an emergency.
Written approval of the proposed referendum from the N.J. Department of Education is pending.
Once it is approved by voters, the district will prepare plans, publicly bid, and award the projects. It is anticipated that all projects will be completed within the next 18-24 months. The district noted that the projects have been “carefully identified” as integral to “maintaining a healthy, safe, and sustainable learning environment.”
The district argued that the improvements cannot be paid for with the existing school budget. They point out that school districts in New Jersey are subject to budget caps that limit the ability to fund larger capital maintenance projects, such as roof or window replacements and similar types of repairs. As a result, districts must find other streams of revenue to fund needed capital maintenance. The New Jersey Development Authority is not an option, because it is currently not awarding any new grants for facility projects. “As of today,” a Princeton Public School spokesperson said, “there is no indication that grant funds will be made available to support the work identified in this referendum.”
It was also noted that “only projects with an extended useful life (more than 10 years) will be addressed” in the Princeton Public School (PPS) referendum.
“This work is necessary to maintain the condition of the schools and improve the efficiency of systems, reducing future operating costs,” according to the district. “Also of key importance is maintaining the proper facilities to support the high performance tradition of Princeton Public Schools.”
The current economic environment was cited as resulting in lower construction bid prices that will enable “this necessary work to be undertaken now by the district at lower costs. If not done now,” a district press release noted, “these improvements will still be needed in the future and would cost more to undertake.”
Absentee ballot registration forms are available on the Mercer County Board of Elections website and will soon be available on the district’s new website, www.princetonk12.org under “Board of Education — Elections”