A vote for schools

Posted 10/26/22

Should Warwick voters approve $350 million to build new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools?

The answer seems simple: yes. Yes, for a multitude of reasons starting with the basics that the two …

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A vote for schools


Should Warwick voters approve $350 million to build new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools?

The answer seems simple: yes. Yes, for a multitude of reasons starting with the basics that the two schools are old and in need of modernization from wiring to access today’s technology to making them more energy efficient and providing them with HVAC systems that work. Yes, because as a community we want to give our students the best opportunity to succeed and having the tools and an environment that cultivates teaching and learning is essential.

Yet, approval of the bond has become an issue revolving around money.

Borrowing $350 million over 20 years – the largest single bond request in the city’s history – raises the questions: can we do this for less; do we need to do it now; do we need to do two schools now and fundamentally, can we afford to do this?

Former councilman and member of the Warwick School Committee, Robert Cushman, and community activist, Rob Cote, argue this isn’t the time to build the schools and that the city should go back to the drawing board. They say city leaders should look at the schools in context of overall budgetary requirements and the impact on taxes. They make a good argument. As Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur has requested we should have a detailed financial 5-year projection, updated annually, of costs as difficult as that may be to calculate with inflation.

In the bigger picture, Cushman projects taxes will need to increase 25 to 40 percent over the next five years to offset the loss of federal pandemic-related funding that has enabled recent no tax increase budgets  and pay for the mounting legacy costs of retiree health care and pensions plus carry the debt of school/city bonds. It would be good to have a picture of the future.

That said, the matter before us at this time is whether to borrow $350 million to build two new schools.

Building one school now and another later or, for that matter, should the bond gain voter approval waiting to build are not realistic options. The state’s commitment to refund 52.5 percent of school costs hinges on starting construction in 2023 and having the schools built in five years.

Indeed, while the answer to voting for the bond seems simple – who would not want to invest in the future of our children, especially when half the cost is being picked up by the state – we can’t pretend paying for it and the rest of city obligations will be easy. It’s going to require making choices and work. It’s going to mean increased taxes.

We have good people running our schools and we have chosen good people to run this city. This is a challenge that we believe they are capable of addressing.

The $350 million school bond is an investment in our future that we can’t afford to slip by. Vote yes for new high schools.

school, editorial


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • RELangseth

    If the city visionaries want to borrow $350,000,000 they should use it to improve wireless for everybody. Provide it for free or a modest cost. That would take the edge off of higher taxes because you save $50 or so per month on wireless. And the students in the existing high schools would be well served too. Of course fix the roof. Provide heat pump heat and AC. That does not require vast new ductwork. And grab a paintbrush.

    Thursday, October 27, 2022 Report this

  • Straightnnarrow

    So predictable! The Beacon endorses $350 million bond issue for Warwick and the grand total new debt including the State bonds for Warwick taxpayers is a whopping $750 million. Pretty soon we will be talking about real money! When will the Beacon endorse freedom and liberty, instead of debt and slavery? Vote NO to all debt issues and ask the politicians when will the gantries come down?

    Friday, October 28, 2022 Report this