For the second time in six years, voters in Princeton will be asked to weigh in on a proposed bond referendum for improvements to the public schools.
In 2012, voters approved $11 million for roof, window and door replacements, track and turf replacements, safety and security upgrades, a media center, air conditioning in some second floor classrooms, and more. Taxpayers in Princeton are still paying for that bond referendum and a previous $81.3 million referendum voters approved on 2001.
Tuesday, voters will decide whether to spend $27 million for improvements to the district’s six schools. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only four polling locations will be used for the referendum, as follows:
Voters in districts 5, 9, 10, 11, 21, and 22 will vote at the Community Park School at 372 Witherspoon Street.
Voters in districts 7, 8, 12, 17, 18 and 19 will vote at the Riverside School at 58 Riverside Drive West.
Voters in districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 will vote at the Johnson Park School at 285 Rosedale Road.
Voters in districts 13, 14, 15, 16, and 20 will vote at the Littlebrook School at 39 Magnolia Lane.
If you are not sure where to vote in the special election on Tuesday, you can look up your polling location online using your address.
The proposed bond referendum to address overcrowding and create a 5-6 school was originally going to be for $130 million, and the vote was slated for November. But delays in receiving approvals, questions raised about zoning issues, and criticism from the community led to the referendum being scaled back and pushed back to December.
Debate about the referendum has divided the Princeton community, and rhetoric from national political debate has trickled down to the local level. One local political club leader went so far as to call a couple who raised questions about the referendum and other school district policies “Trumpies” and “Trumpsters,” on social media, even though both are active in the local Democratic club and raised money for Democratic candidates for U.S. Congress this fall. Other residents who have asked questions about the costs have been called “haters” on social media, and at one school board meeting a resident called people who opposed the referendum at board meetings “obstructionist” and “anti-democracy”, and claimed their questioning of the $130 million spending plan was an “anti-American tactic.”
Supporters of the referendum say the district is overcrowded and needs all of the improvements that were included in the $130 million proposal. Parents have led tours showing residents the facilities. Critics of the referendum have questioned the process for developing the referendum, the projections for student enrollment growth, the lack of feasibility studies for certain projects, and the Cranbury receiving agreement that allows the Middlesex County community to send its students to Princeton High in exchange for tuition. Concerned citizens have said many residents are being priced out of Princeton because of the high property taxes.
In October, the school board voted to put $27 million on the ballot for this referendum this December, with the understanding that the board will revisit the other $103 million in proposed expansion plans in the coming months. Voters will likely be asked to consider a second, larger referendum next year.
In addition to hiring a new communications director to help with public relations prior to the referendum, the district also hired Matthew Frankel, a message development and crisis management consultant, to work on the referendum communications strategy for an undisclosed sum.
Included in the referendum for $27 million are the following:
Princeton High School – Security upgrades, HVAC upgrades, the renovation of the guidance area, new level within the fitness center, four additional classrooms, a commons area near the fitness center, a new remote dining service area, electrical upgrades, air conditioning in the gym, an elevator upgrade, the replacement of some roofing, and improvements to the drainage basin near the performing arts center to mitigate flooding that occurs to the new part of the building that was build with money from the 2001 referendum.
John Witherspoon Middle School – Security upgrades, HVAC upgrades, electrical upgrades, an expanded nursing area, additional instruction space, 40 new parking spaces along Franklin Avenue, and athletic field upgrades.
Community Park Elementary School – Security upgrades, HVAC and electrical upgrades, air conditioning for 24 classrooms, and air conditioning in the cafeteria.
Johnson Park Elementary School – Security upgrades, HVAC and electrical upgrades, air conditioning for 27 classrooms, and air conditioning in the cafeteria.
Riverside Elementary School – Security upgrades, HVAC and electrical upgrades, air conditioning for 17 classrooms, and air conditioning in the cafeteria.
Littlebrook Elementary School – Security upgrades, HVAC and electrical upgrades, air conditioning for 23 classrooms, and air conditioning in the cafeteria, upgrades to the media center.
Check back on Tuesday night for bond referendum results. If you encounter problems at the polls, email firstname.lastname@example.org.