June 30, 2021

School Board Weighs Maintenance Referendum

By Donald Gilpin

A major maintenance referendum to replace leaking, aging roofs at all six district schools and to repair several crumbling facades was on the agenda at last night’s Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) meeting, which took place after press time.

Announcing on Monday, June 28, that it would be discussing its options for undertaking urgent major maintenance projects, the BOE could decide on the details by the end of July, submit its proposal to voters for approval through a bond referendum in January 2022, and start roof replacements in the summer of 2022, according to a June 29 PPS press release. The roof replacement and maintenance projects would be spread out over five years.

The last PPS referendum, $27 million for improvements to all six schools, was passed in December 2018. According to the PPS press release, the debt from prior referendums will mature on February 1, 2022 and 2023, and the proposed future maintenance projects can be completed without increasing debt service above the current levels.

The “maintenance referendum,” the PPS press release notes, would be cost-effective because the state would reimburse the district for up to 34 cents on every dollar spent. In replacing leaking roofs at the six schools, the BOE also anticipates further savings, and greater sustainability, through the installation of rooftop solar panels.

PPS had no further comment or cost estimates at press time yesterday, before its 7:30 p.m. public meeting. Their press release noted that many New Jersey school districts regularly hold bond referendums for facilities maintenance work.

Projects, using funds from the 2018 referendum, to renovate the Princeton High School (PHS) guidance department offices, to build several new learning spaces at PHS, and to create a new satellite “grab and go” food station in what was formerly the school store are currently underway and expected to be completed by September.

The district also used 2018 bond referendum funds to add HVAC units and air conditioning to many classrooms, to convert the old middle school library into collaborative classroom space, and to create security vestibules in the middle school and elementary schools.