$26.9M School Bond to Be Decided December 11
By Donald Gilpin
Voters will face just one question, requiring a “yes’ or “no” response, on December 11, when they vote on the Princeton Public Schools’ proposal for a $26.9 million bond referendum. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. next Tuesday, with just four consolidated polling locations at the elementary schools: Community Park, Riverside, Johnson Park, and Littlebrook.
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert noted that most people would not be voting at their usual voting spots because of the reduced number of polling locations, and she urged everyone to check the sample ballots that were mailed out to all residents for information on voting districts and polling locations. Information is also posted on the Princeton municipal website and on the PPS website.
Lempert also pointed out that in the December 11 referendum vote new voting machines with a verifiable paper trail will be piloted at the Johnson Park polling location. As part of a statewide effort to enhance voter security, the pilot program will use voting machines on loan from Dominion Voting Systems at no cost to the county. The technology allows voters to fill out an oval marking the vote and then feed the ballot into a scanner, with the paper ballot retained for verification.
For many years voter advocacy groups have sought voting machines with a paper trail. The county is working with local officials to ensure that poll workers are prepared and trained to use the new system, and Dominion will also provide on-site assistance on December 11.
“This will improve security,” Lempert said. “We’re glad that Princeton can play a role in facilitating this initiative. Across the country we’ve seen the importance of having a verifiable paper record and hack-proof voting systems. It’s important to make sure that every vote is counted.”
At a nonpartisan meeting last Thursday at the Princeton Municipal Building, Mercer County Board of Elections Chair Joanne Palmucci met with Lempert and other public officials to discuss a problem from the November 6 election with 63 provisional ballots that could not be counted because the canvas bags transporting them were not properly sealed.
It was apparently a common error, and “there were not so many ballots that it would make a difference to the election results,” Lempert said, “but there will be more thorough, better
instructions for poll workers moving forward.”
She continued, “We do want to put the word out about how important it is to have high quality poll workers and well run elections. The county has a tough time recruiting poll workers. It pays nominally and it’s a long day, but workers can sign up for a half or full day.””
In the planning stages for about two years, the scaled down referendum proposal is an initial step in addressing the question of how to address the needs of the district’s growing student population and its aging buildings in an economic environment of high real estate taxes and many homeowners with low to moderate incomes.
The proposal that Princeton residents will vote on December 11 will address the district’s most immediate and urgent needs, including safety, security, and HVAC upgrades in all the schools, as well as the creation of four additional classrooms at Princeton High School (PHS), along with a new dining center on the main floor, increased space for athletics, and improved space for student counseling.
With all of the schools currently over capacity and projections for continued growth at about 20 percent or 700-800 more students in the next 10 years, school officials, in ongoing dialogue with the community, have debated a number of plans. “We’ve had over 40 public meetings to discuss referendum issues,” said Board of Education (BOE) Chair Patrick Sullivan. “We’ve had a lot of input, and I think we’ve come up with an exciting vision. We can’t do nothing. This small referendum in 2018 is a first step towards addressing the needs of our children for the next 50 years.”
Of the $26.9 million total referendum, about 27 percent is expected to be covered by the state for debt service aid to reduce the impact on taxpayers. The anticipated impact on property taxes is approximately $57 additional in the first year, 2020, for an average assessed home of $837,074. Subsequent year estimated additional costs would be about $61 in 2021, about $106 in 2022, then sizable reductions in 2023 and beyond.
For more information on the referendum before voting on December 11, see the district website HYPERLINK “http://www.princetonk12.org”www.princetonk12.org; social media sharing on Twitter @princetonk12 and Facebook @PrincetonPublicSchoolsNJ; or take a tour of PHS on Saturday, December 8 at 9:15 or 10:30 a.m.