A Cranbury Township committeeman has blamed rising school costs in Princeton not on Cranbury students who attend Princeton High School, but rather on what he described as a mismanaged affordable housing plan in Princeton that he maintains will drive up taxes and school enrollment.
Committeeman Daniel P. Mulligan III, reacting on Aug. 7 to a citizens’ lawsuit seeking to invalidate the recently approved extension of the send-receive agreement between Cranbury and Princeton, pivoted to what he considered the bigger problem.
“I find it remarkable the residents of Princeton have not clued in that they should not be worried about the Board of Education and that they should be worried about their mayor and council and how they royally screwed up their affordable housing obligations,” Mulligan said by phone.
“And because of that, that’s the real impact on their housing situation, on their school situation and their costs going forward. If their town council and mayor had any idea of what they needed to do in order to manage the affordable housing obligation, they would not nearly have any of the concerns they have right now at the Board of Education and the funding they need going forward for school,” Mulligan said.
Based on a ruling earlier this year by a state Superior Court judge sitting in Trenton, Princeton has an affordable housing obligation of 753 units from 1999 to 2025. Some of that total has been reached, but to meet its court-ordered mandate, municipal officials have projected that nearly 1,260 units of new housing would have to be constructed in a plan that relies heavily on so-called inclusionary zoning to have market rate and affordable housing.
“I take issue with his statement,” Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert said on Aug. 7 of Mulligan. “I think one of the things that makes Princeton a great community to live in is our economic diversity and I think it’s important for us to continue to invest in our affordable housing. And as a practical matter, it’s also important for us to abide by court rulings.”
Lempert pointed to growth projections for the Princeton Public Schools which show the expected enrollment bump at the high school is “largely” coming from the lower grades.
“It has nothing to do with the town’s affordable housing plan,” she said.
Lempert has recused herself from any decision on the plan since some of the proposed properties where new housing is called for are owned by Princeton University, her husband’s employer.
School officials in Princeton are planning a $129.6 million facilities referendum, expected for November, to help meet growing enrollment that is projected to exceed 4,500 students in 2027.
This comes as residents Joel Schwartz and his wife, Corrine O’Hara, last month sued the Princeton Board of Education in Superior Court, Trenton, seeking to invalidate the vote the board took on June 12 to extend the send-receive agreement with Cranbury to 2030.
Schwartz and O’Hara claim the board’s use of electronic voting precluded the public from knowing how specific board members voted on that issue. The vote tabulation was available on a screen behind where the board members sit in their meeting room.
“To me, it’s absolutely ridiculous they’re challenging” the vote, Mulligan said.
Cranbury Committeeman Jay Taylor said on Aug. 7 that he saw no “grounds to vacate the vote.”
“I’m not concerned that a judge will turn around and vacate the vote,” he said.
Cranbury Chief School Administrator and Principal Susan L. Genco and Cranbury Board of Education President Karen Callahan declined to comment this week on the lawsuit.
Schwartz had been critical of extending the agreement with Cranbury from 2020 to 2030.
For the upcoming school year, an anticipated 280 students from Cranbury will attend Princeton High School. Cranbury will pay $4.8 million to Princeton in tuition for those students.