October 4, 2023

BOE Seats, Referendum on Ballot for Nov. 7

By Donald Gilpin 

Now through November 7, Princeton voters will be weighing in on a School Board race with two incumbents and three challengers competing for three open positions, a $13 million school bond referendum focused on safety measures and facilities improvements, and several other area election races.

Some residents are sending in vote-by-mail ballots. Others will vote early in person at Princeton Shopping Center and six other locations in Mercer County from October 28 through November 5. And regular polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7. Visit vote.nj.gov or contact the office of the county clerk at mercercounty.org for more information, including deadlines and forms.

In the race for three-year terms on the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE), Beth Behrend and Michele Tuck-Ponder are seeking reelection for a third term, while Adam Bierman, Eleanor Hubbard, and Rene Obregon are campaigning to join the BOE for the first time. Three seats are up for grabs.

Next week Princeton voters will have two opportunities to assess the BOE candidates. On Tuesday, October 10, the Princeton Parent-Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) will be holding a Q&A with the five candidates from 7 to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. See princetonptoc.weebly.com for more information and, on October 9, for a link.

And on Thursday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m. the BOE candidates will meet in a webinar hosted by the Princeton Public Library and the League of Women Voters of the Greater Princeton Area. Questions for the candidates can be sent to lwvprinceton@gmail.com — subject line Princeton BOE — by October 9, and a video of the forum will be posted on lwvprinceton@gmail.com, at VOTE411.org, and on the library’s YouTube channel.

Information about the candidates and their platforms is available at VOTE411.org and on the PTOC website at princetonptoc.weebly.com.

Other contests on the ballot include Princeton Council, where incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga are running unopposed for two seats; races for a state senate seat and two seats in the general assembly for the 16th legislative district; and county executive, sheriff, and two seats on the Board of County Commissioners for Mercer County.

Democratic incumbent Andrew Zwicker is seeking a second term in the state senate in a race against Republican Michael Pappas and Libertarian Michael J. Byrne. For general assembly, incumbent Roy Freiman and new candidate Michelle Drulis, both Democrats, are running against Republican challengers Ross Traphagen and Grace Zhang.

In Mercer County contests, Dan Benson is running for county executive for the Democrats against Republican Lisa Richford, while the race for sheriff pits Democrat incumbent John “Jack” Kemler against Republican Bryan “Bucky” Boccanfuso and Libertarian candidate Drew Cifrodelli.

In the election for Board of Mercer County Commissioners, two incumbent Democrats Lucylle Walter and John Cimino are running against Republicans Joseph Stillwell and Denise “Neicy” Turner for two available seats.

Schools Referendum

PPS has created a website at princetonk12.org/progress to help inform voters about the referendum proposal.

“Our goal is to make sure that every eligible voter in Princeton is aware of the vote and understands how the bond referendum is a key part of our strategic approach to address school safety and improvements,” said PPS Superintendent Carol Kelley as quoted in a September 28 PPS press release.

According to that press release, more than 30 percent of the project costs would go to security and safety upgrades, and the funding would also pay for renovations to the high school cafeteria, technology upgrades, energy-efficient building climate controls, and a variety of maintenance projects throughout the district.

The referendum, if approved, would result in contributions from the state of about $5 million in debt service aid toward payment for the projects. The PPS release notes that the owner of a home assessed at Princeton’s average of $848,037 could expect to pay $104 more per year in property taxes if the referendum passes.

The PPS press release goes on to urge voters to learn more about the referendum proposal on the princetonk12.org/progress website. The district will also post on social media and hold a virtual forum for voters, the release says.

The Mercer County clerk reports that new, recently purchased voting machines will be in use for the November 7 election. Poll workers, including students aged 16-17, are needed for the nine days of early voting and on November 7 at a rate of $300 for Election Day and $21.43 per hour during the early voting, plus $30 for attending training. Contact the County Board of Elections or visit vote.nj.gov for further information.