In an election where less than ten percent of Princeton’s 19,145 registered voters turned out to vote, a school referendum asking for $10.9 million for school improvements was approved on Monday. The vote was 1,238 to 571 with 58 people voting by mail.
Approval of the referendum means an estimated $150 a year more in taxes for the average Princeton homeowner.
In a September 12 “Princeton Public Schools Report,” Superintendent Judy Wilson described work to be funded by the referendum as “maintenance and safety projects, and a couple of instructional projects.” This will include “ necessary work” on roofs and windows; drainage systems; “safety work” to improve fields and track; and “energy efficiencies across the system.”
Ms. Wilson pointed out that it has been 11 years since the last school referendum. “It’s time to take care of some of the basics, essential projects that must and will be taken care of,” she observed. The availability of “great interest rates” and low construction rates make this a particularly attractive time to do the work, she added.
Proposed projects funded by the additional money at all four elementary schools will include installation of gym air handlers, upgraded playground equipment, and extensions of security and technology systems. Plans for Johnson Witherspoon Middle School include “repurposing” the old gym into a media center; air conditioning second-floor classrooms; and interior fire-door replacement. Track, turf and bleacher replacements, “select locker replacements,” and renovations to create additional instructional space are some of the projects slated to take place at Princeton High School.
“Monday’s referendum is relatively small and focused only on needs in those portions of buildings and grounds that have arisen since or were not addressed in prior construction,” noted a statement released by the Board of Education. Board members noted that “each of the projects identified for this referendum has been reviewed for over 18 months in public meetings of the Board’s Facilities Committee.” They echoed Ms. Wilson’s comment about this being “an optimal time to take advantage of low construction
bids and capture historically low interest rates,” and pointed out that applying to state agencies, which are not awarding any new grants for facility projects, was not an option at this time.
The district estimated that all the work will be completed during the next 18 to 24 months.