To the editor:
This January, Princeton voters will have a chance to weigh in on a referendum to fund some critical renovations to our town’s public school facilities. The $17.5 million bond issue — officially, the Facilities Stewardship Referendum — will cover the repair of the roofs at all six district schools, as well as other important maintenance measures. I’m writing to express my enthusiastic support.
The first reason to vote yes is that our schools need help. Littlebrook, the elementary school that two of my children attend, has 35 patched holes in its roof, and water regularly seeps in during heavy rains. Riverside’s siding is deteriorating, creating a worrisome risk of mold. The masonry holding up the tower at Princeton High School is crumbling. The fixes this referendum will pay for, in other words, are not frivolous. They will literally keep a roof over our children’s heads. And, thanks to various mechanisms that don’t cost Princeton a penny, those roofs will be prepped for the addition of solar panels in the future, an investment that will save Princeton hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.
Second, the finances make clear sense. Because the referendum supports the renovation of existing buildings rather than the construction of new ones, state aid will reimburse up to 34% of principal and interest. The tax impact, which kicks in in 2023, will in the first year be a modest $172 per house valued at $838K, rising to $262 in 2024 before falling to $64 in 2025. What’s more, over the next two years, Princeton will pay off the last of the interest owed on its 2001 facilities referendum, so that even with this new referendum, our schools’ capital debt will decrease by 43%. This means that over the next two years, Princeton taxpayers will see their tax bill for school-related capital debt go down, not up, even with this much-needed investment in our schools’ infrastructure.
Finally, our votes matter. Because it’s an off-cycle vote, turnout will likely be low — in the neighborhood of 3000 votes or less — which means that in this election, it is truer than ever that every vote counts.
I encourage all Princeton voters to mark your calendars (in-person voting is on January 25th at all four elementary schools, from 1:30 – 8 PM), send in your mail-in ballots, and otherwise join me in supporting the upcoming facilities referendum.