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Letters: Princeton should not pay for school expansion to accommodate Cranbury students 

To the Editor:

Why should Princeton taxpayers have to pay for an expansion of Princeton High School to accommodate a growing Cranbury student population? I was astounded when the Board of Education expressed int rest in purchasing the Westminster Choir College, approved hiring an architectural group for referendum planning, and later entered a bid to purchase Westminster.

It is clear that the BOE has no problem spending taxpayer money and is happy to consider a new bond referendum just as we are finally paying off the current bonds. The BOE President stated that we have a “tremendous capacity to borrow” another Board member gave the analogy of “starting a new car lease when your old one ends”. How come we are not considering giving the taxpayers a break and resisting the urge to issue new bonds?

The Cranbury “sending” agreement will expire at end of the 2019/2020 school year. It is irresponsible of Princeton to be ignoring the impact of the 280+ Cranbury students at Princeton High School. Rather than looking to acquire another building, we should be considering not renewing the 10-year agreement, which would immediately solve most of our student enrollment issue at the high school.

The agreement with Cranbury started in 1990, at that time they only had 107 high school students. Today they have over 280 students at Princeton High School and they are projecting considerable growth in the next 20 years. According to the Cranbury Township Master Plan (adopted in April  of 2016): “Cranbury has grown by 54.3% between 1990 and 2010” and “The NJTPA projects that the Township’s population and employment will increase by 23.8% and 48.4%, respectively, from 2010 to 2040. In addition, households will increase by 37.9% during this period.”

This is a critical point — the Cranbury agreement is ending just as the current bond service is ending. The $5 million loss of revenue from Cranbury will be offset in a decrease of $5 million in debt service, plus the expenses related to the Cranbury students that are not covered by tuition. The initial Cranbury agreement might have solved a short term need, but was not a good decision for the long term needs of Princeton. The decision to renew the Cranbury agreement cannot be an emotional one, it needs to be a financially responsible and sustainable decision made with the input from all taxpayers, not just the BOE.

Princeton Homeowner
Parent of Kids in PPS

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  • Pat Palmer

    At this time, given how incomplete my knowledge is, I agree with this letter. I have yet to see an adequate cost comparison (with a 10-year window, say) of keeping vs. releasing Cranbury students. But the last school bond issue resulted in my property taxes going up 50%, so I suspect a more detailed, 10-year cost-benefit analysis would be AGAINST keeping Cranbury students. And it’s not just Cranbury–this town has students from several other places, not sure how many and the secrecy around that is worrisome. The charter school also accepts students outside Princeton and then demands to be allowed to expand. Which is just ridiculous for taxpayers who are trying to remain in Princeton.

  • PPS_Parent

    Raising the bar is a strange way to think about these things. What percentage of studio band is from PCS? What percentage of the top athletes in the school are from PCS? Horrible arguments. Should Cranbury students pay less than Princeton residents because every few years there may be a star soccer player or great basketball player or great violinist. It’s nonsense.

  • LizS

    Simple FACT: CRANBURY IS NOT PAYING THE FULL COST OF EDUCATING THEIR STUDENTS. It costs $25k/yr for high school students in Princeton, and Cranbury is only paying $18k.

    The agreement should be terminated at the end of the contract, and they should be sent to the WWP schools, which are much closer to their homes, anyway.

  • AcranburyResident

    As a Cranbury resident who has one kid graduated from PHS
    and the other going to be done in 2 years, I appreciate PHS provides rich and
    high-quality programs in academics, arts and sports. While I understand many
    Princeton residents’ frustration about over-crowding schools and increasing
    taxes, I do not think ceasing sending/receiving relationship with Cranbury will
    mitigate those issues. It would save seats and reduce small number of unnecessary
    staff by ending this relationship, but it would lose about $6M revenue and
    result in significant tax increase or significant cut of teaching staff and
    programs or both. Besides, it still cannot solve crowding issues at the elementary
    school and middle school level as the district is considering building a school
    for 5th and 6th grades.

    As far as I know, Cranbury township leadership has always put
    quality of school systems including the relationship with PHS as the number
    priority in planning town development and growth. They have spent huge amount
    of money in buying land and converting it to be preserved farmland and have designated
    east of Route 130 to be industrial zone. There are no more significant lots
    available to build residential property and it is not expected significant
    population growth in the next 10 years. The municipality has also settled affordable
    housing issue with the state and will be exempt from builder litigation in the
    next 10 years.

    The tuition amount was set by the state based on the
    estimated cost per student for the sending/receiving relationship. It was
    approximated $18K per student in the previous academic year and seems lower
    than average cost per student by Princeton residents. I was told that the sources
    for this discrepancy were mainly from transportation cost (Cranbury buses on
    its own), special education programs and administration expense.

  • TaxPoorInPrinceton

    What’s worse is that Cranbury taxpayers won’t be paying any of the cost of the coming bond issue. Princeton taxpayers will be paying to build facilities to help accommodate the surge in enrollment, but Cranbury taxpayers won’t have to pay a cent. Why should Princeton residents subsidize Cranbury residents? It’s not right.

  • Princeton Homeowner

    I don’t think anyone is questioning the quality of the Cranbury students, I’m sure they are wonderful, talented kids. Whether or not they “raise the bar” of the high school I don’t know, seems like my kids have been in good company with the student population in Princeton’s K-8. If discontinuing the relationship with Cranbury causes Princeton High School ranking to drop a few points that is fine with me. The high pressure environment at the high school is out of control, my kids will be burnt out by the time they start college. But, that is another important topic that thankfully the school in attempting to address.

    Regarding increasing enrollment, we are talking about the fact that when this relationship started Cranbury only had 107 high school students, now they have approx. 280. Maybe in 1990 our facilities were underutilized, today we are over capacity. We no longer have “extra” space to host Cranbury.

    Time will tell what types of families will move into the new rental developments and what age children they will have. However any increase in enrollment at the high school created from the new rental properties will most likely not exceed 280 students.
    If Princeton does not renew the Cranbury agreement, then there would be no need to build an addition to the high school. How can we afford to acquire and maintain another building?
    Cranbury may not have enough students to build their own high school so they should reconsider East Windsor Regional. It was their choice not to regionalize school systems with East Windsor and Hightsown in 1981. Instead they created a sending agreement with Lawrence High School from 1981-1991 and then Princeton from 1991-present. Princeton’s demographics have changed and we no longer have the space for 280 students. It would irresponsible for the BOE to renew a 10 year contract and saddle the taxpayers with the costs of building, maintaining, and staffing a new building.

  • Concerned Resident

    As we hear all the time, the world if full of fake news and statistics which the editorial writer is using to rile up his audience. In reality, the entering class size from Cranbury have actually been steadily decreasing. The problem for Princeton is their master plan, which has allowed for very large residential RENTAL developments to be built. Renters do not contribute to the tax base and the developers contribution could not adequately off set the amount of school aged children living in those developments.
    The Cranbury residents pay a substantial amount to attend PHS and, parenthetically, raise the bar of the student body, not lower it. They contribute sustantially to the academic, music, and sports profiles of the school. The entire student body would be deminished on many levels without them. Remember, it’s the student body that makes the school great, not the name.
    Additionally, it is nonsensical to suggest that Cranbury should build its own highschool for just a few hundred students, it simply could not be done. The benefits reaped by the Princeton school system economically and otherwise are apparent, which is why the contract has existed for so long. With the influx of the many students from the new residential rental developments, which Princeton must accommodate, the necessity for more classroom space would still remain, and without the additional 5 million dollar contribution made from Cranbury, Princeton’s tax payers would find themselves in a far worse predicament then that which the editorial writer seeks to falsely create in his comments. The tax payers of Princeton should make decisions based on facts and not hesteria created by people writing editorials.

  • Sydney Rubin

    With all due respect to the writer, people should really use accurate facts and not fake news to try to rile the masses. The reality is that the Cranbury student population has been steadily decreasing for many years. In fact, the Cranbury student population is so small, building their own high school could never be feasible. It is the Princeton population which is increasing as their master plan for development fails to consider the impact of giant apartment complexes and other multi family residential developments, which are not owned by residents who would pay individual taxes on them.
    Yes it’s true that from employment standpoint, Cranbury is growing. This is due solely to workers coming for employment in the new warehouses. These are not residents with children of the town which would burden the Princeton school system. The reality is that Cranbury pays a significant amount to send the children to the Princeton high school. These children raise the bar for the township they don’t lower the bar. For instance, what percentage of the Princeton high school award-winning studio band are cranbury students. Proportionately more than Princeton students.
    The reality is that Princeton high school would be overcrowded based upon the new construction which is ongoing in Princeton, even without the Cranbury students. The loss of an additional $5 million from Cranbury would have significant impact on the Princeton residents and increases the taxes they seek to save by vanquishing the Cranbury students. Additionally the loss of the academic brain power, musical talent and athletic skills of the Cranbury students would be sorely missed by Princeton high school.
    Everybody wants someone to blame for their high taxes. It is not the fault of the Cranbury students that Princeton has such a high tax rate. You can be assured, with the loss of that $5 million payment they received from Cranbury, taxes will only skyrocket.
    Before you play the blame game, get your facts straight.

  • George

    It is funny how all the candidates for BOE interviewed so far say we can’t possibly stop the agreement with Cranbury because we can’t lose the revenue. Well, the revenue does not cover the cost of educating those students, not to mention the expansion cost, so how does it make any sense? The real reason is that the school system can’t fathom a reduction in their budget. That’s also the reason they reacted so strongly to Charter expansion, someone took away their money (but of course also the students). Someone should run for BOE on a platform of reducing school budget.

  • Princeton Homeowner

    I agree, so frustrating that we ever started this arrangement with Cranbury in the first place because now the BOE expects this revenue. I just don’t trust the BOE at this point. The study done by the demographer was total garbage and yet they continue to take advice from these “experts”. The demographer hired by Princeton predicts a decline in Cranbury enrollment, but Cranbury’s own master plan predicts tremendous growth. If the Charter school continues to expand, shouldn’t their facilities absorb enrollment growth in K-8? If we eliminate Cranbury from PHS shouldn’t we have enough space for Princeton’s students? If the BOE gets their way and we acquire another building to shift all the grades around to make room for more students at the high school, Cranbury won’t have to pay for any of this. The State determines the tuition amount that Cranbury pays and it currently is less than our cost to educate each student. No wonder Cranbury is sending triple the amount of kids then they initially sent in 1990- people realized that they can buy a house in Cranbury at a fraction of cost of Princeton, pay less in taxes, and have their kids graduate with a PHS diploma!

    Regardless of how people feel about the Charter school, it is obviously not going anywhere and the BOE is powerless in preventing expansion of Charter. We should focus our energies on working with Charter and coordinating a joint plan for how to meet the needs of future Princeton students. Cranbury should not be part of the equation since we have no control or voting power over what future housing projects they might approve. Cranbury has a lot of farmland that can be future housing developments- will Princeton have to expand the high school again in 20 years for Cranbury??

  • P’ton taxpayer w/ kids in PPS

    Well put. I totally agree. Cranbury is growing and should shoulder the burden of their students. West Windsor did it. We should not be forced to pay for expansion when it is not needed.

  • Edward R. Percarpio

    I agree. It’s time Cranbury builds its own schools. Our tax bills are forcing many retirees to move out of the town they’ve lived in for decades and we need to find ways to keep our most experienced citizens. We’re all committed to the highest standard of education, indeed that’s the reason many of us chose to live in Princeton in the first place, but this is a real opportunity to lower our tax burden.

  • kbaa

    The most recent figures I’ve been able to find show 1587 students enrolled at PHS. If there are indeed more than 280 Cranbury students included in this figure then without them, PHS students would need roughly 17% less space, 17% fewer staff, 17% fewer administrators, and a 17% smaller budget. Roughly.
    But hey, this is Princeton, and we’re all rich here, yes? So rather than have the Cranbury students go to high school where they live, we can just expand the high school here to accommodate them. Or build another one on Valley Road. Or take over the Choir College. Yes! And put more Napoleans on the School Board!

  • non believer

    Well put. I also don’t believe the hype that a totally separate facility and staff for a “free” private school, i.e. charter school, doesn’t add additional cost to the system.

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December 17 @ 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
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Carillon Concert at Princeton University

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Palmer Square Winter Wonderland and Photo Workshop

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Sun 17

Christmas Bird Count, Kingston segment

December 17 @ 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
Sun 17
Sun 17

Santa Comes to Kale’s Garden Center

December 17 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sun 17

Carillon Concert at Princeton University

December 17 @ 1:00 pm - 1:45 pm
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