To the editor,
On Monday, September 18th the Warwick City Council will be meeting to discuss and possibly vote on a generational project that will have an impact on all current and future …
To the editor,
On Monday, September 18th the Warwick City Council will be meeting to discuss and possibly vote on a generational project that will have an impact on all current and future residents of the city. The City Council will decide whether to borrow up to $350 million dollars to build two brand new high schools.
In November of 2022 the residents of Warwick voted 58.8% to 41.2% to replace both Toll Gate and Pilgrim high schools. The council has no statutory power to change the plans for building the two schools, not to choose to build only one school, nor to add items to or subtract items from this project. The only authority the council has regarding this matter is to vote on whether the city should borrow the funds to build the schools or not. While the council only has this narrow authority, ultimately the council will decide if these schools get built or not.
With the state’s reimbursement plan, the city should be reimbursed about 50% of the costs of building these two new schools. Even with this reimbursement plan, this project will have a major impact on the city budget for years to come. There is no question that taxes will be raised to cover the costs of borrowing these funds. Additionally, all the other city expenses will continue to rise, which will further increase costs for the taxpayers.
Understanding that the decision to release these bonds may be the biggest decision a councilperson may vote on during their tenure on the council, we took a number of steps to make sure the city is in the best position to make this decision. A number of economic factors have changed since November 2022, such as inflation and rising interest rates. We successfully lobbied the general assembly for a one year delay on the project start and completion dates while still ensuring the full reimbursement from the state. This extra time allowed us to hire an independent company to review the school department’s plan and either show or disprove that these schools can still be built for the budgeted amount of up to $350 million dollars. That report showed that while costs have increased, the school department’s plans can still be completed within the budget.
On September 18th the council will discuss the matter and potentially decide on whether or not the proposed projects move forward. The residents have already spoken and voted to build the schools. The council did extra due diligence to review the plan and ensure it is feasible. Taking all of this into account, as Council President I docketed and sponsored this agenda item, and will have one of the nine votes on whether to issue the bonds.
I will be voting in favor of building these new schools. Warwick is continuing to grow and has always been a great place to raise a family. Having two state of the art high schools will be a true asset for the community. More families will look to move to Warwick so their children can learn in first class facilities with some of the top teachers in the state. My hope is that, as a community, we will take pride in the fact that Warwick taxpayers are making a major investment in the education and future of our children.
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