Who’s going to pay the bill?
That, it appears, is the newest argument taking shape between the Warwick School Committee and the city administration. The bill is for $1.7 million to repair the leaky roof at Vets High, a condition that has been deteriorating for years and was referenced when an accreditation team visited the school in 2008. Back then repairs were estimated at far less, but because they’ve been put off the price keeps going up.
Last week, school business affairs officer Anthony Ferrucci recommended the committee use its projected $1.7 million surplus to finally fix the roof, thereby ensuring it would not become an issue that could place the school on accreditation warning by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. More important, a new roof would arrest further damage to the building and bring an end to the bucket brigade that accompanies every major downpour.
But three committee members – Eugene Nadeau, Karen Bachus and Jennifer Ahearn – voted to reject the bid. They reason that the building is owned by the city and, from their perspective, the city should pay for the repairs projected to cost $2.2 million.
Nadeau put it this way when he visited the Beacon yesterday, “If you were a tenant in an apartment building, wouldn’t you expect the landlord to pay to fix the roof?”
It sounds good, and we see his point. But there’s a big stretch between schools and the city and the relationship between a tenant and a landlord.
For starters, schools are not paying rent to the city to use the buildings. And second, more importantly, it’s the taxpayers who are paying for both city and school operations.
We would add that property owners are paying regardless of whether they have kids in Warwick schools, just the way they are paying for police and fire services whether they use their services or not.
Nadeau said yesterday Vets would get its roof, although he didn’t say who would pay, nor did he offer to explain how, after rejecting the bid, the department would retain the quoted $2.2 million cost. The delay could end up costing even more.
We understand that those charged with running our schools are faced with daunting responsibility. They see the test scores and can make comparisons to the outcomes as reported by other municipalities and want to see Warwick improve. They want to put more into programs and view the costs to upgrade and sustain buildings as secondary to their mission.
Unfortunately, resources are limited. Like the city, schools must make choices. Putting off repairs again, or looking to have the city pick up the tab, which is not going to happen, won’t resolve the issue.
The money may come out of different wallets, but it all starts from the same account – that’s the taxpayer.