With the general midterm election just a week away, it is important for voters to arm themselves with as much education as possible regarding the candidates that will appear on their ballots. However, it is equally important that voters inform themselves about the ballot questions that will appear as well, as these propositions hold the keys to huge potential for growth in the state’s educational and economic outlook for many years to come.
There are three questions on the statewide ballot, and one question specific to Warwick.
and Warwick’s ballot initiative both relate to approving bond funds to rejuvenate dilapidated school buildings that have gone neglected for far too long.
Statewide, the proposed $250 million in bond funding would be released in spurts throughout a five-year period, with the idea being that another $250 million in bonds will be approved in 2022 to complete a so-called “once in a generation” $500 million investment into the state’s schools.
This funding would enable communities to initiate comprehensive construction work on neglected school buildings that they otherwise would be unable to afford, as the state bond money would go towards matching capital projects undertaken by municipalities. That matching percentage is set by the state based on the perceived ability of the community to pay for projects, but additional incentives can be earned through measures such as proving a dedication to proper maintenance and incorporating things like energy efficiency into projects, in addition to a preference for new construction projects.
Locally, the Warwick School Department has been transparent and vocal about the need to secure bond funding on its own to begin projects right away – such as 12 fire alarm systems that need work, nearly $11.5 million in ADA compliance work, nine full roof replacements and partial or complete replacements for HVAC systems. The schools sought $85 million in funding to appear on the ballot, but the city council cut that down to $40 million. Regardless, $40 million is a crucial start.
We urge Warwick voters to approve the local ballot initiative – it already has the support of Mayor Joseph Solomon – as it will have a minimal effect on taxes yet it will provide a drastically needed boost to address high priority needs within our schools. We support the statewide bond as well, as the problem in Warwick’s schools are not nearly as bad as some other communities; which speaks volumes. The state bond will go toward reimbursing Warwick for about 40 percent of its school costs.
Question 2 seeks voters to approve $70 million to provide additional financial assistance to the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. Of that, $45 million would go to URI to bolster its Graduate School of Oceanography, College of Engineering and College of Environment and Life Sciences. The remaining bond money will go to RIC to renovate Horace Mann Hall, which houses the college’s School of Education and Human Development.
More specifically, the money will (among other renovations) enable URI to build a 20,000 square-foot Ocean Technology Building and enable them to berth a $100 million research vessel belonging to the National Science Foundation. The research being conducted in this field is especially important considering the economic impacts we are seeing in regards to global warming, and having one of your state universities – the Ocean State, that is – be considered one of the leading producers of talent entering this field should encourage us to give them every tool we can to continue succeeding.
For Rhode Islanders, this question should be simple. Universities are economic drivers for states, and Rhode Island has a lot to take pride in when it comes to both URI and RIC. Both attract a wide range of talented young adults and offer programs that are considered some of the best in the nation for their respective fields – such as teaching at RIC and the oceanography program at URI. In terms of bond funding, $70 million is within reason and is an investment worth making.
Question 3 should, again, go to the hearts of those who have grown up and love the environmental splendor of what Rhode Island’s natural resources have to offer. If approved, Question 3 would enable the state to issue $47.3 million in bonds to support 10 different areas that would positively benefit the public at large.
These include things like $5 million for coastal resiliency (protecting against coastal flooding); $7.9 million to support clean drinking water initiatives; $5 million to maintain state parks and recreational facilities; $5 million to safeguard wastewater treatment facilities (which Warwick voters should be plenty empathetic towards); and $5 million for local recreational projects, and that’s only half the list.
It essentially comes down to this: All four questions that will appear on your ballot next Tuesday are investments into your state and your local community. These investments should make the state a better place to live and are forethinking concepts that consider the changing world we find ourselves in. With assurances that these indebtments won’t put us in financial risk, we put our full support behind each question.