At Tuesday night’s Borough Council meeting, resident Charles Crider GS ’79 made a public presentation requesting that the Council ask the University to fund a long-term study of the local community’s transit options, a study that would be jointly administered by the Borough’s planning board, the University and select Borough residents.
The suggestion followed last week’s news that the University decided to abandon its planned Arts and Transit Neighborhood after community disapproval over the relocation of the Dinky halted the project.
“It would seem to me this would be a very positive thing to come out of this, if you could pull it off, and that the University should fund it,” Crider said of his suggestion.
Crider, who is an electrical engineer, previously proposed a personal rapid transit system to replace New Jersey Transit’s Dinky service.
Mayor Mildred Trotman, however, noted that all formal discussion of negotiations with the University are currently being conducted by the Council in sessions that are not open the public.
The Council also discussed the Borough’s financial outlook — with several councilmen expressing optimism about its future despite current debt — and reviewed its debt management strategy, which is based on a plan proposed in and enforced since 2004.
Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi presented projections for the next few years’ debt and debt service, or the amount required each year for the repayment of interest and principal.
The Borough’s debt service for 2011 is 14 percent of its operating budget, down from 16 percent in 2010.
The Borough’s current debt capacity is 1.8 percent, far below its maximum allowed debt capacity, which is 3.5 percent of its total equalized value.
“I am very comfortable with where we are financially when it comes to debt, because I think we’ve done a great job over the past couple of years managing our own spending habits,” Bruschi said. “Clearly this plan has helped us with our operating budget. If we had kept building our debt as we had, our operating budget would be significantly more than it is right now.”
Concerns raised by councilmen about the Borough’s ability to uphold its debt reduction plan focused on the projected $2 million cost of the Borough’s contribution to Princeton’s Community Park Pool project, a renovation of an existing pool complex planned in conjunction with Princeton Township.
The $2 million figure is higher than the Council would have liked, councilman David Goldfarb said, adding that the discrepancy stemmed from a misunderstanding of the original estimates.
“We ratified the amount that we had as placekeeper,” he explained. “Parks and Recreation thought that we had approved that much for the project [and] that is not the way we should opperate. Every one of the capital budgets that we are involved in must be approved when it comes time to do the actual spending.”
Several members of the Council said they hoped the Borough’s direct contribution could be reduced through additional fundraising and cost-reducing changes to the construction plan.
Every $100,000 reduction in the Borough’s contribution to the pool project would reduce its annual debt service payment by around $7,300, according to Bruschi.