EDITORIAL

Let people of Warwick decide on school repairs

Posted

While the future of Warwick’s school buildings remains uncertain, and will remain as such until we get a definite answer from the Warwick City Council on Jan. 22 when they hear further discussion from the School Department on an $85 million bond, it is 100 percent certain that the city cannot afford to do nothing.

Kids at all age levels deserve to go to safe, warm schools where learning can be the top priority – and it is no secret that many of the school buildings in Warwick go beyond a level of simple disrepair.

One needs look no further than the figure the state Department of Education (RIDE) floated out as a result of its statewide assessment on all of Rhode Island’s school buildings – The Jacobs Report – which indicated the city would need to spend about $190 million to get the schools back to an acceptable condition.

Whether that figure is dead-on accurate or not is beside the point. The estimate is approximately two-thirds of the entire city’s budget for FY18 and is about $25 million more than the entire allotted budget for the School Department. It’s a mammoth figure, and it’s only going to balloon within five years to about $239 million if things continue to deteriorate without recourse.

To put it briefly, we have to start now. Whether or not that start is on the scale of the $85 million the school administration is seeking through a bond will be, as it was when the issue was brought up last year, entirely up to the nine members of the city council. It shouldn’t be, since this money would be the responsibility of the entire taxpaying base in Warwick.

Although it is clear and prudent to exercise caution when talking about such a large figure, which will add to the city’s indebtedness and be put on the shoulders of the taxpayers, it is also prudent to not let the demons of the past or personal biases cloud an important judgment that will affect thousands of children who have no real say in what school they go to, or what repairs are made to it.

Some members of the city council have expressed an overt distrust for the school department, stemming from several personal experiences where the then school administration either misled the council or mismanaged moneys appropriated to them. Others have expressed an obstructionist type mentality because schools in their ward face closure in a pending plan to further consolidate schools to counter declining enrollment.

Others on the council have expressed a desire to looking into new construction, without providing an answer about what happens to the other dilapidating schools that will continue to degrade without investment now. Building new would be ideal – and kids deserve new. But the time is not now, as too many schools need immediate work to make them even serviceable in the district. We’re stuck with what we have until we’ve made some strides in the right direction.

Some on the council call it a waste of money to repair old buildings, but this is the reality we find ourselves in. If the $85 million bond is approved, that will enable the school department to fix the direst needs at every school across the district – and they will be publicly and privately held accountable should they deviate from the plan they have established and advertised.

Not to mention, should the school department start to show they’re not following the book, the council can freeze the release of bond money year to year. There is no ultimate lack of oversight, as some on the council have suggested.

While it is understandable to be wary of a department that has wronged you in the past, it is nonsensical to apply that same mentality towards a new administration that has done nothing to abuse the trust, which is necessary to perform as colleagues in city government.

Neither the current superintendent nor the current finance director were around when the last bad blood session over bonding occurred, and it is essential to the future of the city’s children that enough members of the council are able to realize that and do what is right and best for the most people in the city they represent.

The $85 million bond proposal has been a solid proposal that has stayed consistent for almost two years – not counting the exploratory request for $118 million to satisfy a RIDE standard which was more show than substance – and it should be brought to the voters for a final say.

This type of matter should be decided by the voting public who would pay for the bond, not by a small group of individuals with their own human biases and agendas.

Comments

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Justanidiot

Build one big warehouse where we can ship the kids from 7:30 to 3 pm. When they turn 18 let them loose on the world. All we need is a place to keep them off the streets so they can be "educated". Once you have the warehouse built, sell off all the school buildings and turn them into luxury condos. Education is a joke in amerika. Let's start treating it that way and funding it that way.

Thursday, January 11
ThatGuyInRI

Just an idiot is appropriately named.

Thursday, January 11
Justanidiot

Speaking the plain truth is getting pretty dull around here.

Thursday, January 11
davebarry109

And if the voters say no to this huge appropriation you'll all go away, right?

Thursday, January 11
Justanidiot

Nah dave, they will just come back asking for more.

Plus a ball park in Pawtucket.

A video game company in Providence.

Back up the truck boys, we are GIVING money away!

Thursday, January 11
richardcorrente

Dear Justanidiot,

Once again, you show your wisdom with sarcastic wit.

The Jacobs Report is probably right. Warwick probably needs about $190 million to get our school buildings back to decent levels. But keep in mind, as Justanidiot is showing us, the Warwick School Committee has already spent over a BILLION DOLLARS of taxpayers money since 2009. They are supposed to spend much of that money to keep our schools renovated and up to current standards.

They didn't. They didn't come close.

And now they want the taxpayers to give them $85 million MORE; NOT $85 million. $85 million MORE!!!!! (on top of the $160 million Warwick taxpayers already gave them with no accounting as to how they spend it.)

If the School Committee didn't spend the first BILLION DOLLARS OF TAXPAYERS MONEY to renovate the schools, how in the world can anyone believe that they will spend this new money on dime one of renovations?!

They won't.

And Justanidiot compares it to "a ball park in Pawtucket -- a video game company in Providence" or "backing up the truck" because "we are GIVING money away".

I think he is saying it clearly, even if some commenters intentionally misread him. I think he is "speaking the plain truth."

Well done Justanidiot.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, January 11
WwkVoter

Corrente once again shows how ignorant of facts he is. As is anyone who is dumb enough to vote for him.

Happy new year Everybody

Saturday, January 13
WwkVoter

We need to fix our educational facilities. You can't do that for free. I'm with Beacon Editorial on this.

Saturday, January 13
wheelchairman

Ok so Rick, your saying the school committee should have spent money from their yearly budget on renovating the schools. Ok fair enough, can you please tell us of that 160 million where would you cut the 20 to 25 million per year for that?

Saturday, January 13
richardcorrente

Dear wheelchairman, (AKA Dean Johnson)

Dean,

Good question.

No, I can't tell you where I would cut 20 to 25 million because I don't think we would have to.

The big problem Warwick taxpayers have with the School Committee (SC) is that they receive $160,000,000 a year and no one knows where it is spent. I was at the City Council meeting on Wednesday. Every council person is demanding accountability from the SC and to date no one has received it. I used to say "they have received OVER A BILLION DOLLARS SINCE 2009" To update that "THE HAVE SPENT OVER A BILLION-AND-A-HALF DOLLARS since 2009. Much of that money was supposed to go to renovations and repairs of our schools.

It didn't.

Some of that money was supposed to go to teachers salaries past, present, and future.

It didn't.

Now the SC is trying to extort the City Council for more money saying that if they don't grant that request, the SC will have no choice but to take it from the kids.

Not true.

They could cut some of the new administration hires they made for no benefit to anyone EXCEPT the SC.

They could take it out of the money saved from all the layoffs of teachers.

They could take it out of their many "cash reserve accounts" that are not needed AT ALL.

OR, and you have heard me shout this for over three years now, THEY COULD SUBMIT TO AN HONEST INDEPENDENT, AUDIT.

I'm sure an independent audit will uncover a lot. My guess is that the $3 million the SC is asking for at the moment will be "found" many times over. 3 million dollars would be the "tip of the iceberg" and the rest of that "iceberg" would be the size of the one that sank the Titanic!

Good to hear from you old friend.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

11 hours ago
richardcorrente

Dear WwkVoter,

I agree with you that we HAVE to fix our educational facilities. I agree that you "can't do that for free."

Where you and I disagree is that the Warwick taxpayer has already given the money to the School Committee (SC) for that very purpose. Over a BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS of taxpayers money has been given to the SC since 2009. Much of that money was to go to "repairs and renovations" per their charter mission statement.

It didn't. ( I don't think a dime was spent)

I have asked for an independent audit performed by an outside third party for over three years now. I have challenged each member of the SC individually to motion for it voluntarily in order to restore credibility in the SC.

No one did.

Now you say we NEED repairs. What the hell makes you believe that if we give the SC even more of the taxpayers money, they will suddenly decide to spend it on our schools when they never did before?

Please answer this honest question my anonymous friend. You can use your real name if you're not afraid.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

10 hours ago