Please note: These highlights are an unofficial summary of actions taken and topics discussed during the public session of the PPS Board of Education on March 14, 2023.
They are intended to provide timely information to our community, but they do not represent an official accounting of the meeting. Official minutes will be approved by the Board at its next meeting.
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Highlights from March 14, 2023
The Princeton Board of Education met Tuesday, March 14, 2023, at 25 Valley Road.
The meeting was called to order by Dafna Kendal, Board President. Nine board members were present, including Betsy Kalber Baglio (Vice President), Beth Behrend, Debbie Bronfeld, Jean Durbin, Mara Franceschi, Susan Kanter, Michelle Tuck-Ponder, and Brian McDonald.
School Safety and Security: Board President Dafna Kendel addressed an issue regarding the safety and security of students and staff, which is the highest priority for the Board of Education. As is common in school districts in New Jersey, Princeton Public Schools does not have a School Resource Officer or Special Class III (armed) Officer. Any decision to hire either role is a Board-level decision, never the decision of a single Board member.
Princeton University financial support: Princeton University has announced that it will provide more than $14 million in financial support to Princeton Public Schools over the next five years. This includes an unrestricted payment of $2.25 million in the first year, an amount that will increase by 4% in each subsequent year. The university will also provide $500,000 a year to support the goals and initiatives of our Strategic Plan. The full announcement can be viewed on the university's website. The board thanked the university for this support, as well as the support during the pandemic of food for students, and tents for outdoor learning. Superintendent Kelley thanked both the university and the members of the board who worked to secure this generous donation.
2023-2024 Budget Presentation: Matt Bouldin presented the tentative budget, which will be submitted to the county for state review before a final approval vote by the board in April.
The budget is framed by the district's mission statement as well as the strategic plan's four goals. The district uses zero-based budgeting, which means that each budget is built from the bottom up, looking at every position and every dollar spent. In highlighting the uniqueness of the district, Mr. Bouldin cited the comparatively small class sizes in the elementary schools, the large number of support services the district provides, the percentage of the school community who is navigating poverty - a percentage well above that in equally affluent communities in New Jersey - a charter school, and the district's commitment to equity.
The drivers of the proposed budget are the increased services and out-of-district placements needed by students post-pandemic, the dual pressures of inflation and scarcity, and the commitment to improving curriculum and instruction.
Mr. Bouldin praised the board's fiscal responsibility in both spending and in managing the debt service. The tentative tax levy for 2023 would be $87.993 million. The proposed tax increase from 1.198 to 1.237, combined with the decreased tax base, translates to an effective tax increase of 3.26%. The district has also generated banked tax capital, unused tax or spending authority that can be saved for three future budget cycles, which allows PPS to use it in the future. $51, 688 of banked tax cap is expiring in the 2024-2025 budget cycle if not used. He also reminded the board that debt has "rolled off" or been paid off, lowering the district's obligations.
Michele Tuck-Ponder asked how the new construction projects in town will impact the tax base. There is new software that is working to verify that all students who attend the charter school are Princeton residents or that the sending district is paying tuition.
Board discussions of the tentative budget focused on balancing the pressures that increase the budget and therefore the tax levy with the needs of the students and where to find cost savings. Betsy Baglio reminded the board and the public that as Covid funds have expired, the needs of our students have not. Brian McDonald pointed to the pressure on the budget from district facilities, some that date to 1927, which require upkeep and have been under-maintained for decades, as well as the challenges of growing enrollment.
The total tax levy, which includes operating fund and debt service fund is forecasted to go up by 2.9% for the 23-24 school year as tentatively adopted on March 14th, 2023. Final Budget is scheduled to be adopted on Tuesday April 25 at 730 pm via zoom.
The Operations committee will be meeting on April 12 at 8 AM via Zoom. The committee's co-chairs noted that committees discussions will provide more insight on the budget, balancing the budget, and planning for future budgets.
Public comment focused on discussions of the DLI program and math curriculum.
Resignations and Retirements: The Board wished the best to resigning staff Thomas Foley and Caitlin Rossi and thanked them for the positive impact they have had on their students. Congratulations were given to those staff members who are retiring.
Dr. Kim Tew reminded the public of the upcoming Math curriculum night on Thursday, March 23.
The next Board of Education meeting will be in person on Tuesday, March 28, and it will be live streamed on both YouTube and Facebook Live.
- District News