Understanding this Specific Investment in Our Schools
Posted January 2019
Why is this referendum needed?
This referendum supports important infrastructure improvements to our schools to ensure our growing student population is learning in safe, secure, and healthy environments. The proposed referendum targets four areas: 1) Safety and Security, 2) HVAC/Sustainability, 3) PHS Renovations, 4) Basic Athletic Improvements
What are the major projects for each area of the referendum?
Safety and Security
- Create secure and welcoming entrances at ALL school buildings.
- Update safety measures in various ways at all schools to meet today’s standards, including modern visitor screening and management systems and door, hardware, and glass security upgrades.
HVAC and Sustainability
- Upgrade current HVAC and control systems for more consistent and energy-efficient operation.
- Add air conditioning to approximately 135 rooms throughout all schools that currently are not air-conditioned, including classrooms, cafeterias, multi-purpose rooms, and the PHS gymnasium.
- Make improvements around the drainage basin at PHS to mitigate costly flooding in the performing arts wing.
- Increase capacity at PHS through a small addition of 4 classrooms.
- Renovate the guidance/counseling and child study team area to support improved services for students and families.
- Create a dining distribution area in addition to the cafeteria to provide students with more efficient access to lunch.
- Create a partial second floor in the PHS fitness center to provide space for wrestling, fencing and other movement activities.
- Make renovations to upgrade and enhance building mechanical system operation and the efficiency of existing units and equipment.
Basic Athletics Improvements
- Build a small building near the PHS athletic fields for bathrooms, concessions, and storage.
- Provide access to water at the fields and new backstops, dugouts and scoreboards.
- Add safety netting to PHS lacrosse field.
What specific improvements will the referendum support for each school?
Please go to this web link for a specific breakdown of expected improvements: View Projects by School.
What process did the Board follow in deciding on the specifics of this referendum?
The planning process for this referendum began nearly two years ago with a comprehensive needs analysis, multiple demographic studies, and a capacity study of every school. In January of 2017, the Board undertook an initial needs analysis by engineers of the physical assets of the district. That analysis was then updated over the course of the year through conversations with administrators, staff, and members of the community. In February of 2017, the district received a new demographic study, which was subsequently updated with additional information four more times. The latest iteration was provided to the Board in January of 2018. In February of 2017, the district also undertook a capacity study for each of our schools, which was updated in April of that same year.
Based on the results of those various studies, the Board brought in an architectural team to develop a series of plans. The architects met with teachers, administrators, students and various groups and individuals throughout our community. Over the past year, more than 40 separate meetings were held to provide information to the community and also to hear from those who had expertise in areas such as sustainability, historical preservation, and educational equity.
Throughout the planning process, the Board has continued to listen to our community. It has sought to balance the needs of our schools and of our growing student population with a commitment to maintain the economic diversity of our town. Ultimately, in an effort to achieve that balance, the Board has decided to focus an initial referendum on the most urgent and immediate needs for our schools.
Will this referendum address the overcrowding in our schools and the need for additional capacity in response to enrollment projections?
All six Princeton public schools are currently either at or over capacity. This referendum represents an initial step towards addressing current overcrowding by adding four classrooms at PHS and two at JW through a renovation of the "old library" space. It does not, however, fully address the current need for additional, updated space at PHS and the broader challenges posed by aging facilities and projected district-wide enrollment increases of 700-800 students over the next decade.
Taxes, Spending and Timeline
How much will the referendum cost?
The projected cost for all projects in the referendum is $26.9 million.
Additional Tax Impact of Referendum
Estimated additional costs to taxpayers based on average assessed home of $837,074:
2020: $56.84 annually
2021: $61.20 annually
2022: $105.58 annually
2023: ($397.86) reduction annually
Please note that up to 40% of the referendum costs will be funded through debt service aid from the state and not by the Princeton taxpayers. Our bond advisors calculated the annual amounts listed above using an estimate of State debt service aid of 27.19% of referendum costs.
Because the District’s current debt service will retire in 2023, the old and new debt will overlap for a period of four years. This means that the additional cost to taxpayers will be higher in the first few years than it will be in the years after the District’s current debt has been paid off.
Is there tax relief for Senior Citizens?
Senior citizens, age 65 and older (or qualifying disabled residents), may be eligible for tax relief and impacted differently by the referendum through the NJ Property Tax Relief Programs. To determine if you qualify, contact NJ State Treasury at 1-800-822-6597 or visit the NJ State Treasury website.
If passed, can funding from the referendum go to additional projects?
No. Funding approved under a public referendum can only be used for the projects that are included in the referendum.
Can the district spend more than the approved amount on the referendum projects?
No. The Board can only spend up to the approved amount. The budget for the projects includes a 10% contingency allotment for unforeseen construction issues. The budget has also been developed conservatively to allow for the possibility of increasing interest rates and construction costs.
What if less than the approved amount is needed to complete the referendum projects?
Any excess funds would be returned to the community as tax relief.
If the referendum passes, when will construction begin and end?
Construction will begin in the Spring of 2019. Some will be completed by the new school year in the Fall of 2019. All work should be completed by the start of school in 2020. To minimize the impact on teaching and learning, we will strive to do as much work as possible during the summer months and over holidays.
How can I learn about the progress of the projects?
The construction of the referendum projects will be overseen by a project manager, Epic Management, Inc. Epic, along with the architects, will be providing regular updates to the Board of Education and to the community regarding the progress of each project.
How can I learn more about the referendum?