Princeton voters will be asked to approve a $17.5 million bond referendum in a special election Jan. 25 to replace leaky roofs and outdated rooftop HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) units at all of the schools.
The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education approved the date for the bond referendum at its Nov. 9, 2021 meeting. The school board began discussions on the possibility of a maintenance bond referendum in June 2021.
Four polling places will be open from 1:30-8 p.m. at the Community Park School at 372 Witherspoon St.; the Riverside School at 58 Riverside Drive; the Johnson Park School at 285 Rosedale Road; and the Littlebrook School at 39 Magnolia Lane.
Some of the roofs were replaced in 1995 and some were replaced in 2004. The new roofs will be solar-ready. The Lawrence Township Public Schools installed solar panels the roofs of its schools in 2008. The Hopewell Valley Regional School District and the Franklin Township Public Schools have installed rooftop solar panels on their school buildings.
In addition to roof and HVAC replacements, the bond referendum will provide money for new siding at three elementary schools, masonry repairs to the tower over the main entrance to Princeton High School, and skylight, fascia and gutter repairs at the Johnson Park School.
In a school-by-school breakdown, the bond referendum earmarks $1.6 million for roof and HVAC replacements at the Community Park School.
At the Johnson Park School, it will cost $2.6 million for roof and HVAC replacements, skylight replacements and repairs to gutters, fascia and siding.
At the Littlebrook School, $2.7 million will be spend on roof and HVAC replacements and siding repairs. It will cost $794,676 for roof and HVAC replacements and siding repairs at the Riverside School.
Roof replacements and HVAC replacements are expected to cost $3.1 million at the Princeton Middle School.
At Princeton High School, the bond referendum sets aside $6.4 million for roof and HVAC replacements, masonry repairs to the tower and a slate roof rehabilitation project.
While voters are being asked to approve a $17.5 million bond referendum, the State of New Jersey will pick up 34% of the tab in new debt service aid, school district officials said. This means the state will reimburse the school district for 34% of the principle and interest payments that it incurs.
Acknowledging that debt service for the referendum – if it is approved – will be added to a property owner’s tax bill, school district officials said they expect to level out the impact by adding the new debt to the debt service levy as older debt is paid off.
The school district property tax levy includes money for the general operating budget and money to cover debt service for previously approved bond referendums. The existing debt is $6.7 million, but by 2024-25, it is expected to be $2 million – including the new debt from the 2022 bond referendum, if it approved.
For a house assessed at the town average of $838,822, a property owner’s school district property tax for 2021-22 is $10,065. Of that amount, $790.59 is for current debt service.
As existing debt is paid off and new debt from the 2022 bond referendum is added, the debt service portion of the 2022-23 school district property tax bill is expected to go down from $790.59 to $447.76.
Debt service included in the 2023-24 property tax levy is expected to be reduced to $433.66 – to include debt from the 2022 bond referendum. It will decrease to $235.62 in 2024-25, as debt from previous bond referendums is paid off.