January 30, 2013

Historically Low Rate For School Bond Means Savings for Taxpayers

At last week’s meeting of the Princeton Public School (PPS) Board of Education, Finance Committee Chair Dan Haughton reported on the recent bond sale for which six bids had been received. The sale was completed by public auction on January 15 with the Chicago-based investment firm Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co. beating competitors PNC Capital, UBS Financial, Raymond James, Janney Montgomery Scott, and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

The $10,980,000 bond comes with a net interest rate of 1.43 percent. According to a press release from PPS, this is an “historically low lending rate.”

The bond is for work slated under a special referendum approved last September. According to Stephanie Kennedy, business administrator for Princeton Public Schools, the lower-than-anticipated rate will translate into substantial savings for taxpayers.КWhen Princeton voters approved the facilities spending, the interest rate was expected to be 2.5 percent.

The 1.43 percent interest rate means that the debt service will be more than half a million dollars less than was originally projected. A number of factors led to the lower interest rate, not least of which was the district’s Aaa rating by Moody’s, re-affirmed this month after interviewing Ms. Kennedy and reviewing the district’s financials, including the most recent audit. The Aaa rating is held by only a handful of school districts in New Jersey.

“This is great news for the taxpayers,” said Ms. Kennedy. “This means that we can get all of the projects done for fewer tax dollars over 10 years than we had originally projected.” With the successful sale of the bond, the district can move forward with the planned construction projects, many of which will go out for bid in February and be completed by this fall.

Mr. Haughton commended Ms. Kennedy for her financial stewardship. He also reported on increased revenue from the JWMS pool, which amounted to $100,000 last year. Because of a hike in fees, more is expected this year.

The meeting was attended by assistant superintendents Lewis Goldstein and Bonnie Lehet as well as Board President Timothy Quinn and members: Rebecca Cox, Dorothy Bedford, Andrea Spalla, Daniel Haughton, Molly Chrein, Patrick Sullivan, and Martha Land. Absent were Afsheen Shamsi and Evelyn Spann.

The board heard reports from Mr. Quinn, several other board committees, and voted on several agenda items

Superintendent Judith A. Wilson’s “Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Report,” was approved for adoption as was the Multidimensional Principal Performance Rubric (MPPR) for principal evaluation as required by the State. The rubric intends to promote the development of quality professional practices by supporting self-assessment, reflection, feedback, goal-setting, and evaluation.

In her report, Ms. Wilson congratulated the PHS Studio Band for its performance at the Kennedy Center on Inauguration Day and two PPS teachers at the Community Park Elementary School for winning Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards: science teacher John Emmons and science lab teacher Martha Friend.

The budget was briefly discussed but since no announcement has yet been made by the State (awaiting Governor Christie’s budget address February 26), no action was taken. PPS received a $10,000 grant from the Asian Society’s Confucius Classrooms Network, in support of projects in its Mandarin program, as well as an additional $1,000 travel grant.

John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) Principal Jason Burr introduced presentations by JWMS teacher Nina Lavado and Lori Rotz, assistant principal at Princeton High School.

Ms. Rotz reported on her recent seven-day service project building a school in Constanza in the Dominican Republic, a project sponsored by Lifetouch and in coordination with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “It was an experience like no other,” said Ms. Rotz.

Ms. Lavado spoke on the “Parent University of PPS” and about “Latinos en Progreso” (Latinos Moving Forward), the program she founded two years ago at JWMS (see story on page 7). “Latinos en Progreso” will be under the umbrella of the new overarching group “Parent University of PPS,” aimed at supporting parents whose children are enrolled in ESL; those who haven’t mastered the English language; or those children receiving academic support.

“This is a model for parent involvement,” said Mr. Quinn, who went on to ask whether more could be done to help parents with basic computer skills.

Ms. Wilson announced that there will be a public forum on the school’s budget at the next meeting on March 5. There will be no meeting in February. For more information, including ongoing updates on the referendum work, visit: www.princetonk12.org.