Schools look for feedback on bond proposals

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Are Warwick voters prepared to support an $85 million bond issue to upgrade its aging schools, or would they want to upgrade schools to aspirational standards suggested by the State Department of Education at a cost of almost $118 million?

And yet there is a third option – might voters not support school building improvements at either level? Might they say no to improving existing schools or willing to spend much more to build news schools?

The School Committee and the school administration will be looking for direction at a special meeting of the City Council tomorrow night at City Hall.

In order for the School Committee to move ahead with a bond issue of any size, it will need City Council approval. The process doesn’t end there. In order for the bond to appear on the ballot, which will give the voters the final say, it requires legislative approval from the General Assembly.

The school administration is not looking for the City Council to take a vote Wednesday. Rather, school business officer Anthony Ferrucci explained in a recent interview the intent of the meeting is to review the options, define what would be accomplished with each of the proposed bond issues and gauge the direction that would be supported by the council and, next November, the voters. That assessment will then be used by the school building committee on Dec. 5 to draft a recommendation of capital projects. A week later, that plan will come before the School Committee. Once the committee approves a plan it will return to the council in January for its approval.

Adhering to this agenda is important if schools are to meet the Feb. 1, 2018 Stage II deadline for funding from the Rhode Island Department of Education. At its current level, RIDE would fund about 40 percent of approved Warwick school improvements. That funding comes in the form of a reimbursement when the project is completed.

Missing the Feb. 1 deadline could result in sidelining any RIDE sanctioned bond for school improvements and delay a public vote until 2020. On the other hand, meeting the deadline could put a plan on track for legislative consideration and voter consideration on the 2018 November election ballot.

While the February deadline seems close at hand, prioritizing school building upgrades and improvements have been ongoing for more than a year. A school building committee that included representatives from the city drafted the $85 million bond proposal that was tabled when it came before the Council Health/Welfare and Education committee last February. At that time the council wanted to see the RIDE statewide report of school buildings before acting.

In response to the question of cost to the taxpayer, then-City Finance Director Ernest Zmyslinski projected principal and interest payments of an $85 million bond at $6.8 million a year for 25 years. He said with state reimbursement at 40 percent, the annual cost to taxpayers would drop to about $4.1 million. At the current residential tax rate this would result in a 40-cent tax increase, or $80, for a home valued at $200,000.

When the state released its report – the Jacobs Report – the projected cost of Warwick school improvements increased primarily because of the department’s “aspirational” standard of calculating 180 square feet per student. Although not mandated, if Warwick schools apply the standard, it could mean amending its approved plan to consolidate three elementary schools: Wickes, Randall Holden and John Brown Francis. One of the schools would need to remain open, or a new one built, thereby pushing up the cost to the community. That is the $118 million bond the council will hear about tomorrow night.

As Finance Committee Chair Ed Ladouceur has made evident, there promises to be no lack of opinion either about the school administration or the state Department of Education.

“What I’m seeing and hearing is that RIDE is part of the problem,” he said last week. “What they’re putting out are completely unreasonable square footage per student.” He called RIDE’s “aspirational” goals “a total waste of taxpayers’ dollars. No wonder people are mad.”

He didn’t spare the school administration from criticism, too. He called conversion of former Gorton Junior High School into administrative offices an “outrage.” He called it a waste of space and money, saying the administration had more affordable alternatives.

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Justanidiot

da skuls was gud enuf for me to get my book larning back in the day. we donts gots to pay more moneys for skuls anymores. wes gave all dat moneys to the teachers anywaze

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
richardcorrente

CORRECTION:

The School Committee does NOT want $85,000,000. AND they don't want it to "upgrade its aging schools"

They want $85,000,000 .....MORE!!! (In addition to the $160,000,000 they already have with almost no accountability)

AND they won't let ANYONE tell them, advise them, or even suggest to them how they should spend it. They DEMAND total control! They only CLAIM it is for upgrading our schools.

Since 2009 Warwick Taxpayers have given the Warwick School Committee (NOT the Warwick Schools; NOT the Warwick teachers; NOT the Warwick students), over ONE BILLION DOLLARS. THAT money was supposed to be in part for "upgrading our aging schools". It didn't go to that. It went to the Warwick School Committee! Now they want more. They won't submit to an impartial audit from an outside company. The taxpayers and the City Council are NOT allowed to see what they have spent the previous BILLION on, but now they want us to "trust them" with $85,000,000 MORE!!!!!!!

The idea that any intelligent taxpayer would even consider this proposal shows how far the School Committee has moved away from the needs of the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. The money is absolutely NOT for the schools. It is solely for needs of the School Committee.

The answer is "No!"

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Once again the fake "mayor" only proves his complete incapacity to acknowledge fact in his relentless pursuit of talking points that only sound good to him.

"[T]hey won't let ANYONE tell them, advise them, or even suggest to them how they should spend it."

The moron fake "mayor" clearly doesn't know that autonomy of school committees is enshrined in Rhode Island state law and backed up by decades of legal precedent; it's state law that "won't let anyone" govern the school department.

Were he the slightest bit educated on these matters, the pathetic fake "mayor" would know that bonds are one exception; as the city is borrowing the money, it may request a specific plan that justifies the borrowing and uphold the legal requirement that the money actually be spent on facilities.

"Since 2009 Warwick Taxpayers have given the Warwick School Committee (NOT the Warwick Schools; NOT the Warwick teachers; NOT the Warwick students), over ONE BILLION DOLLARS."

The shamelessly lying fake "mayor" denies the 90+ percent of school funding that pays teacher and staff salaries, benefits and pensions, and the $3.3 million that the city council will now have to add to the current year's budget to cover teacher salary increases negotiated by the WTU and the school committee he is so quick to attack.

"The money is absolutely NOT for the schools. It is solely for needs of the School Committee."

The disgraceful failed candidate has invented a unfounded conspiracy theory, offering no evidence except his delusional ranting.

As he has shown time and again, the pathetic, lying, fake "mayor" can not resist making a humiliating spectacle of himself, and will no doubt continue with his next comments.

Thursday, November 30, 2017
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

Set aside the insults for a moment and understand that I have a keen knowledge that the "autonomy of school committees is enshrined in Rhode Island state law". That is why I have written so often how Warwick needs a HOME RULE CHARTER! I understand how, without it, the Warwick School Committee has way to much power. Way too much. Please go back and read my many letters, editorials etc. and please don't lower yourself to name-calling. You don't even have the courage to identify yourself.

Merry Christmas CrickeeRaven.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, December 1, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Once again, the thin-skinned crybaby fake "mayor" ignores reality. Warwick is one of two Rhode Island communities with a legislative charter, which is identical to a home rule charter in all but name.

His abject lack of shame is only superseded by his ability to humiliate himself, which he will no doubt continue to prove in his next comments.

Friday, December 1, 2017