Princeton voters approve school bond referendum


Princeton voters overwhelmingly approved a $17.5 million bond referendum to replace leaky roofs and outdated HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) units at all of the district’s schools in a special election Jan. 25.

The bond referendum was approved by a vote of 2,320 to 721, according to the unofficial vote tally released by the Mercer County Clerk’s Office. The tallies will not be official until certified.

The bond referendum was billed as a maintenance referendum.

The majority of the votes cast were mail-in ballots. Of the 3,041 total votes cast, 2,042 voters mailed in their ballot and 999 voters turned up at the polls for in-person voting.

Overall voter turnout was 17.2%.

Some of the roofs at the schools were replaced in 1995 and some were replaced in 2004. The new roofs will be solar-ready.

In addition to roof and HVAC replacements, the bond referendum will provide money for new siding at three elementary schools and masonry repairs to the tower over the main entrance to Princeton High School. There is money for 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 spent on roof and HVAC replacements and siding repairs.

The bond referendum sets aside $794,676 for roof and HVAC replacements and siding repairs at the Riverside School.

Roof and HVAC replacements at the Princeton Middle School will cost $3.1 million.

At Princeton High School, the bond referendum earmarks $6.4 million for roof and HVAC replacements, masonry repairs to the tower and a slate roof rehabilitation project.

The State of New Jersey is picking up 34% of the tab in new debt service, school district officials said. The state will reimburse the school district for 34% of the principle and interest payments that it incurs.

School district officials said they expect to level out the impact of the new debt as older debt is paid off. The existing debt is $6.7 million, but by 2024-25, it is expected to be $2 million – including the new debt from the $17.5 million bond referendum.

The school district property tax levy includes money for the general operating budget and money to cover debt service for previously approved bond referendums.

For a house assessed at the town average of $838,822, a property owner’s school district tax bill 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 will go down from $790.59 to $447.76.

Debt service included in the 2023-24 property tax levy will 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.