Council holds key to $85M school bond

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The City Council holds the key on whether voters will have the chance to decide in November whether $85 million should be spent over the next five years to address school building deficiencies. But unless the council acts quickly, they could force schools to delay a bond request for at least a year and maybe longer.

The critical date is the Feb. 1 deadline for the School Department to submit a Stage II plan to address school building deficiencies and/or build new schools, if that is the chosen path to be eligible for state funding this year.

Following the vote of the committee, the school administration drafted an $85 million proposal to repair deficiencies ranging from leaking roofs to aging, inefficient heating systems. Work needs to be done in all 22 Warwick schools, which average 64 years old. Work would not be done at Holden or Wickes, which will close at the end of this academic year, or Drum Rock, which will be used by the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.

Yet, while the need to improve school buildings is not disputed, members of the City Council have questioned whether fixing up older buildings is throwing good money after bad. They question if the city would be better off closing some schools and building new ones.

That issue will surely be raised at a special City Council meeting Monday, Jan. 22 to consider the $85 million plan. Last year, the plan never reached the council floor as it lulled in the finance committee, where chairman Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur wanted to see a state study of school building deficiencies before taking action. That statewide assessment of school buildings – the Jacobs Report – identified $190 million in current Warwick school building deficiencies.

The state report serves as the basis for the governor’s task force plan calling for $500 million in state bonds, of which $250 million would be on the ballot this November. The state funds would augment local funding, which in Warwick’s case could amount to almost 50 percent of the cost of renovations. Assuming council approval of a city school bond and General Assembly approval of a state bond, both referenda would appear for voter consideration on the November ballot.

Ladouceur would like the Warwick plan to be a “blend” of upgrading old buildings and building a new school.

“I’m not giving my vote for $85 million unless there’s a blend. We’ve got to fix schools and we’ve got to build schools,” he said in an interview Sunday.

Ladouceur reasons a new school, whether a large elementary that would allow for the consolidation of smaller schools or a single middle or senior high school that would also mean consolidation would serve to reenergize the school system. He feels it would serve to attract young families to Warwick and stem the exodus of homeowners to communities such as East Greenwich and North Kingstown.

Ladouceur’s proposal is problematic if schools are to meet the Feb. 1 deadline.

To comply with Stage 2 requirements for consideration this year and meet the Feb. 1 deadline, the School Committee would need to decide whether to build an elementary, middle or senior high school, where to build it and what schools would close as a result. Reaching those decisions could take months if not longer, say school officials – certainly not in time to meet the Feb. 1 deadline.

Yet there is support for building new as well as frustration that the district has put off repairs or made improvements to schools that in only a matter of a few years are closed because of declining school enrollments.

A poll of council members found support of a school bond this year, although the amount of the bond and what controls the council might seek to impose is not clear.

“I think they need money, but the other thing I don't like is that we're using bond money for ordinary and necessary repairs. I feel bond money should be used for new infrastructure instead of repairs,” said Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla.

Calling himself “pro-schools,” Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci said “delaying [repairs] we’re only going to have additional problems in the future. Let’s go to the 85. Let’s get started.”

Freshman Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley, who opposes the consolidation plan re-purposing John Brown Francis School as the Early Childhood Center, agrees schools “have been neglected for years.” He believes Warwick and state school bond issues on the same ballot could be confusing. He also wants to see where the $85 million would be spent.

“I’m going to ask about specific projects…it seems [the school committee] favoring the Toll Gate area when it comes to spending on schools.”

Ward 7 Councilman Steve McAllister, who viewed deficiencies in the schools in his ward on tours provided by the school administration, said there is no question improvements need to be made. He favors placing the question on the ballot so voters can make the choice.

Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix embraces new schools but likewise is aware of the need to address the issue.

"There is a great need to invest in our schools, and with state matching funds and relatively low interest rates, there is no better time than now. I'm concerned that our newest school, built in the early '70s, will be 60-plus years old [and the oldest will be 120-plus years old] when we're done paying off the proposed bond. It makes sense to replace one or more of the worst-off buildings with a new, modern building – not only resetting the clock on repairs but creating a learning space for the 21st century – in addition to essential repairs to all other buildings,” he said in an email. Like Corley, he favors keeping John Brown Francis an elementary school.

City Council President Joseph Solomon said, “I think everyone connected to the issue realizes that [something needs to be done.] But the who, what or where matters, and what's going to be prioritized or not prioritized. You don't want to do repairs to a building you're closing down. However, that all lies within the realm of the school administration. We have no say in that.”

Referring to a burst water pipe at Toll Gate and school heating issues in the past week, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis quipped, “After seeing all the problems, I guess we need it.”

She went on to say that “it is obvious work needs to be done.” Travis’s issue is how the committee will spend the money.

“I just don’t trust them,” she said.

Ward 6 Councilman Timothy Howe, Ward 3, could not be reached for comment. The meeting on Jan. 22 will be held in Council Chambers starting at 6 p.m.

(With reports from Ethan Hartley)

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richardcorrente

Remember, this is not, I repeat NOT $85,000,000. This is $85,000,000 MORE!

We have no accounting for the $160 million they spend EVERY YEAR and now they want us to "trust them" with $85 million MORE!!!

Council-person Donna Travis said it best when she stated "I just don't trust them." I couldn't agree more. We need an independent audit from an outside third party. We NEED that.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, January 11
Thecaptain

Yet the fake illegitimate pandering MAYOR DUMBNESS, stood silent when members of the community demanded forensic audits of the school department. The Mayor Dumbness stood hand in hand with Karen Bachus who stood against an audit, against GPS in vehicles, and against accountability of union employees.

Even when evidence was shown on video of waste and abuse, MAYOR DUMBNESS AND Sam Kineson, stood steadfastly against any accountability. Hence moving forward, we have the David Laplante conundrum. Where 1 man, absconded in excess of $100,000 in merchandise, stolen from the school department, yet he and Bachus, refused an audit.

The man is mentally ill. Enough said !

Thursday, January 11
Reality

It good to see "the captain" is spot on with his comments. I implore the "captain" to make sure he enlightens the public about Mr. Corrente's business acumen and how timely he made tax payments to the city so the electorate can separate his fiction from reality. I'm sure the electorate will find it amusing.

Friday, January 12
Justanidiot

donot tell me it is tru. are mayer dusent know how to handle money.

butt he is the taxprayers mayer. we put are trust in hims

Friday, January 12
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Thecaptain:

It is really pathetic how the fake "mayor" again chooses to ignore readily available public information and insists on repeating already-disproven statements: "We have no accounting for the $160 million they spend EVERY YEAR..."

This link has been provided to him on several occasions: https://www.warwickschools.org/departments/district-financial-documents/

As the description indicates, the webpage includes links to past year-end audited -- here, allow me to repeat that because the fake "mayor" seems to have missed it before: AUDITED -- financial statements.

All another audit would do is cost the city more money without showing anything different from the published audited financial statements, showing that the fake "mayor" is, in fact, less concerned with responsible school spending than he is with making some kind of political statement.

He and the nine members of his party on the city council also need to realize that their mistrust of the school committee -- based, as it is, on simply not accepting the legally-protected right of the school department to manage its own budget without city interference -- is not a legal basis for trying to manage the spending of the bonds for school repairs.

The fake "mayor's" party members need to stop running for office and start running the city.

Friday, January 12
Kammy

What city wouldn't want a new school building? Of course that would be a wonderful addition to our city. But isn't the more pressing matter ensuring the safety of the students in our current buildings? The new building wouldn't be ready for years. The repairs need to be done now, not later. I think a new school should be a standalone issue.

Why must everything in Warwick politics be so combative and shady? Can we not agree to wipe the slate clean and start fresh instead of walking in the same footsteps EVERY SINGLE TIME? How about instead of Donna saying, "I just don't trust them", why not list out why you don't trust them and try to find a solution to the mistrust issue? What are the exact reasons? Are they all viable? Have they been discussed? Resolved already and just pulling it up now because you are biased?

Speaking of biased, our representatives don't even agree on what should be closed, what should be repaired and what should be repurposed. Why? Because they all believe their school is the best school in the city and should remain open. An outside opinion is far better for our community than listening to everyone try to sell their crumbling infrastructure to the masses.

I know many people get into politics because they think they can make a difference. The strange thing is as soon as they spend some time in the trenches they are doing exactly what they ran against. Living in Warwick and dealing with the politics is like living in our very own version of the move Groundhog Day. I am exhausted as an American, Rhode Islander and citizen of this city.

Friday, January 12
Thecaptain

So lets get to today's events:

Today at 11 am we had the WFD Special Hazards truck with 3 men, and Engine 9 with 3 men, all shopping at the same time at the Stop & Shop on Greenwich Ave. (Engine 9 may have had only 2 men, thereby leaving the truck unattended which is a direct violation of the ordinance put forth by the board of public safety) They left the store with 2 racks of soda and a small bag of whatever. As these men were getting into the trucks (which they hid behind the building) Ladder 1, the largest piece of equipment in the city, was dispatched on a call, just 2 blocks away from where 5 or 6 men and 2 pieces of apparatus were engaged in personal activities. Followed 3 minutes later by Rescue 3.

In the mayors past statements about this issue, he stated in this paper, that the men have the trucks and radios with them at all times so they can leave the market and respond to the call. Now, having presented the facts let us speculate for a moment.

Whoever was in need of the WFD services at this time, would they have had faster response from the 6 men and 2 trucks that were 2 blocks away, or was it more advantageous and less of a emergency priority to just send Ladder 1 from 2 miles away? Just asking. I'm sure someone from WFD will have a reasonable answer.

Meanwhile, during this display of mis-management, our Mayor is vacationing in Nantucket, AGAIN!

There once was a man from Nantucket whose.... well you know how it goes.

Friday, January 12
richardcorrente

For the record, I have ALWAYS recommended an independent audit of the School Committee from an outside third-party source and have called for it in these comment sections dozens of times, as well as in person at School Committee meetings, in person at City Council meetings and in my "Corrente Plan" from my mayoral campaign. I have written dozens of articles and "Letters-to-the-Editor" about it. I have challenged each individual School Committee member to publically agree to it. None responded. I even met with the Finance Director, Anthony Ferrucci and strongly recommended it to him as a solution to the lack of trust the taxpayers have with the School Committee. I also stated it (again) in the first comment of this comment section.

Critics maybe didn't bother to read the part when I said "We need an independent audit from an outside third party." Maybe they didn't understand what that sentence meant.

Rob Cote (AKA Thecaptain) states that I "stood still" on this topic. That is a lie. The opposite is true and documented repeatedly.

He says that I "refused an audit". He is lying again. I demanded an audit then and still do today! The only way we can rebuild our schools is to rebuild faith in the people that are spending the $160,000,000+- that our taxpayers are giving the School Committee every year. The part of that money that is supposed to go to school renovations is NOT being spent that way. The 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab are demanding an audit and so am I!

Happy Valentines everyone.

Richard Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, January 12
Thecaptain

Where and when did the fake mayor every publicly demand an audit. Since he has never taken the microphone at the city council meetings we know it wasnt there. Now he will probably tell us all to do research to try to find where and when he requested an audit. This man is so delusional that I believe he requires professional help.

Friday, January 12
CrickeeRaven

Here, again, is how easy it is to prove the fake "mayor" is delusional:

The third-party independent auditor for the city is Parmelee, Poirier & Associates LLP, as shown here in the audited city financial report for FY2016: https://www.warwickri.gov/sites/warwickri/files/uploads/cafr_06.30.16.pdf

According to Anthony Ferrucci, Parmelee, Poirier & Associates LLP is the same firm that audits the school department's budget. In fact, in June, 2017, according to a local news website: "School Committee member David Testa asked Ferrucci who the schools’ auditor was, and if the auditor was reasonably considered a third party. Ferrucci said the firm is Parmelee, Poirier & Associates and that the firm is a third party auditor."

https://warwickpost.com/schools-report-191000-surplus-for-2016-announce-31-teacher-layoffs/

So, in the fake "mayor's" fevered imagination, the independent firm that audits the city's books is somehow not independent enough to credibly audit the school department's books.

However much he claims to "demand" an audit -- which, as Thecaptain rightly points out, is another of his claims that has no basis in fact -- all the fake "mayor" is trying to do is invent a controversy where there is none.

Honest, taxpaying voters should be glad that he so readily proves his complete lack of fitness for office, which will undoubtedly lead to another overwhelming and humiliating defeat this November.

Friday, January 12
schwanee

I can see not much has changed in Warwick. People are leaving, Schools are in disrepair because the landlord makes the tenants pay for repairs, Potholes are plenty, City workers still have control, people are pissed and the politicians do nothing to fix the problem and taxes still go up. Did I miss anything.

Saturday, January 13
WwkVoter

Kammy, expecting "Donna Travis" to do something intelligent has about as much chance as expecting the fake mayor nutbag to read the informative data and say something reasonably true. Their existence in politics at all speaks to a very ill electorate.

happy valentines day everybody

Saturday, January 13
WwkVoter

I should add that a good public education system is the only way to improve these issues. Fix the schools.

Saturday, January 13