Princeton school board adopts tentative budget with three-cent increase

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Princeton property owners will see a three-cent increase in the school district property tax rate, based on the district’s proposed $108.5 million operating budget for 2024-25.

The tentative budget, which is a $2.3 million increase over the 2023-24 budget of $106.2 million, was approved unanimously at the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education’s March 18 meeting. It will be reviewed by the Mercer County Executive Superintendent of Schools.

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A public hearing on the budget is set for the school board’s April 30 meeting.

The school district property tax rate will increase from $1.23 per $100 of assessed value to $1.26. The owner of a home assessed at the town average of $844,787 would pay $10,644 in school district property taxes.

A Princeton property owner’s tax bill includes the school district property tax; the municipal property, library and open space taxes; and Mercer County property and open space taxes.

The school district property tax accounts for 49% of a Princeton property owner’s tax bill. Mercer County’s share is 29% and the town’s property tax is 21% of the total tax bill.

School Business Administrator Matthew Bouldin said the budget drivers – the reasons for the increase in the budget – range from meeting students’ needs post-pandemic, to the scarcity of teachers and the need to pay more to attract and keep them, and an increase in transportation costs.

Salaries and benefits are expected to increase from $80.9 million in the current budget to $81.7 million in the tentative 2024-25 budget, Bouldin said.

Transportation costs also are anticipated to climb. The cost has been budgeted at $3.2 million in the 2024-25 budget, compared to $3 million earmarked in the current budget.

Also, there are more students who need extra help and extra services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The district is trying to offer more services, which means an increase in student services from $4.8 million to $5.1 million in the 2024-25 budget.

The budget also earmarks $8.1 million to be paid in tuition for the Princeton Charter School, as compared to $7.5 million in the current budget, Bouldin said.

On the revenue side, property taxes account for most of the school district’s revenue. The amount to be raised by taxes for the operating budget will go up from $86.1 million to $87.9 million.

There are other sources of revenue, including $2.3 million from Princeton University.

The school district will receive $5.8 million in state aid, as compared to $5.3 million that it received last year. The district also will apply $3.5 million from its fund balance, or surplus account, as a source of revenue.

Also, the budget includes $5.1 million in tuition from the Cranbury School District, which sends its high school students to Princeton High School. The Cranbury school district does not have its own high school.

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