Princeton Board of Education should postpone vote on Cranbury contract

To the Editor:

The high school sending-receiving agreement with Cranbury is expiring in 2020. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for the Princeton Public School District and the town’s residents to reexamine the costs and benefits of this agreement and whether the reasons to enter into this agreement almost ten years ago are still valid today and for the next decade.

Whether to renew the Cranbury agreement will have a material impact on the student headcount in Princeton High School in a time when our school facility is capacity-constrained. More importantly, this decision will directly affect the need and the timing of the proposed facilities referendum, which in turn will have a significant impact on the township finances.

Rather than brushing aside questions about the Cranbury agreement by the public, the school board has the obligation to provide Princeton residents a detailed explanation as to whether renewing the Cranbury agreement is in our best interest. Unfortunately, the information provided so far by the school district to justify renewing this agreement has been woefully inadequate and often misleading. For example,

1. The Board of Education members and the Cranbury representative said on the April 10th board meeting that there is no legal option to terminate this agreement. However, NJ Rev Stat § 18A:38-21 clearly states that the board may apply to the New Jersey Department of Education for consent to terminate the agreement on the ground that the receiving district is “no longer able to provide facilities for the pupils of the other district.”

2. The Board of Education members and the superintendent told us that terminating the Cranbury agreement will lead to an immediate loss of $4.9 million revenue for the district. That is not true. NJ Rev Stat § 18A:38-21.1 stipulates that the send-receive relationship shall be continued for the students from the sending district who are already enrolled. This means that the loss of revenue to the district will be phased in over four years which should provide both Princeton and Cranbury school districts the time to make operational and financial adjustments.

3. The superintendent also said that the lost revenue from Cranbury would be too big a budget deficit to fill and will force the district to breach the 2% cap of property tax increase. Yet, taking on over $100 million of debt and the associated operating costs of new school facilities seems to be a sure way to exceed that 2% cap. The township residents are entitled to all the necessary information to help them to decide which bill to foot.

As substantial changes in tax laws are occurring at both the federal and state levels, township residents, more than any time, have the right to demand from our elected officials the prudence and transparency that are required for decisions that could affect the township’s financial health for the next decade and beyond.

Please join me in urging our school district officials to postpone voting on the send-receive agreement with Cranbury and present us detailed information and analysis so that our community can make an informed decision.

Sign the petition at calling on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education to postpone voting on the send-receive agreement with Cranbury.

Jian Chen


  1. I agree 100%! It is insulting that the BOE is not properly addressing this and they are defensive anytime someone asks a question. Before the referendum planning even started they should have hired a cost accountant to prepare an analysis to show the full impact on the overall budget over the next 5-10-20 years both with and without Cranbury. The BOE keeps talking about a loss of $4.8M, this is GROSS revenue, they need to calculate NET revenue after we subtract the costs to educate 280 kids. There is a “Cranbury Fact Sheet” posted on the BOE website

    This fact sheet was prepared internally, they are claiming that it only costs 11.66 teachers to educate the 280 Cranbury students. How can this be? What about all of the other indirect costs?

    At last weeks BOE mtg. re: the bond referendum (video on YouTube), the Cranbury BOE member stated that we could not get out of the agreement due to enrollment. How can this be? What was the thought process when the BOE originally started this arrangement? I assume that 30 years ago the high school must have been undercapacity in order to enter this agreement, and at this time there were only 108 Cranbury students. The situation is completely different now. If the agreement is for 10 years, doesn’t that mean that both parties would have the opportunity to address at end of term to decide if renewing is still in their best interest? What would happen if we build an addition to PHS and in 10 years Cranbury decides they don’t want to renew? It’s not healthy for PPS to be dependent on funds from another community when we have no vote on their future housing growth and the state of NJ determines the “tuition” they pay to us.

    1. “The Gateway” in Cranbury NJ is just one example of the extensive construction planned to house kids East of Route 1 in the future. With 54 new, family-friendly homes, its largest floor plan is called…you guessed it… “The Princeton” : )

  2. Thank you for stepping up with a request for dialogue, Jian. It’s right to expect the very best from people in positions of leadership. Dialogue to ensure fairness, correct math, and environmental & economic sustainability are essential for good governance. You shouldn’t even have to ask.

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