In August Governor Gina M. Raimondo launched the School Building Authority, a component of her Jobs Plan, that includes conducting the first statewide school construction assessment as well as a new funding mechanism for public schools with immediate renovation needs. When she launched this initiative she stressed that the Authority would be hitting school building challenges head on – helping kids and teachers to get better schools as well as stimulating the Rhode Island construction industry with new jobs.
The establishment of the School Building Authority and its Capital Fund were part of Raimondo’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Raimondo’s budget also lifted the moratorium on school construction, allowing school districts to move ahead on repairs, renovations, and construction that had been held in abeyance for the past four years.
To aid in the work the Governor has created a School Building Authority Advisory Board and has made appointments to that board. City of Newport Councilor Naomi Neville is one of the leaders that the Governor has appointed to the Board. “I am honored that the Governor has reached out to me for this important work” said Neville. “As a mother of school age children I am very aware of the importance to education that a solid well-functioning building serves. As a member of the City Council I am committed to economic stimulation for our city and State. The School Building Authority helps support and grow these two very important initiatives”
In March the Governor visited Pell Elementary School in Newport to make the case for her proposed Authority. During her tour she said “we need to put people back to work, and our children need modern schools, so we’re making it a priority to invest in school construction.”
“I am pleased that the Governor has recognized the leadership that Councilor Naomi Neville can bring to this statewide initiative,” said Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. “In Newport we are lucky that Pell Elementary School was funded before the moratorium on new construction came down. Other cities and towns were not so lucky, and now they can move forward to get their schools back to where they need to be and Naomi with her experience can help make this happen.”
“We know our kids can’t learn in crumbling school buildings and that they must have access to a learning environment that inspires them to do their best,” said Raimondo. “We are hitting our school building challenges head on. With this plan, kids and teachers will get better schools and our construction crews will get back to work.”
“Rhode Island has been a leader in school design and construction, with several award-winning school buildings,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the R.I. Board of Education. “Nevertheless, we have been unable to keep up with the need for repairs and renovations in many of our older school buildings. I am pleased that Governor Raimondo and our legislative leaders have made $20 million available to our schools and districts to put school renovation and repair on the fast track.”
The School Building Authority will fund a statewide assessment of all public-school facilities and the creation of a “prioritization plan” for school construction. This is the first ever statewide assessment of public-school facilities in Rhode Island.
This unprecedented commitment to school construction will expedite repairs for projects that demonstrate immediate need with access to funding from the School Building Authority Capital Fund. The Capital Fund includes $5 million designated for low-cost projects (less than $300,000) that are ready to go, pending funding.
In addition to the $20 million in the Capital Fund available to school districts for their share of construction costs, school districts may also apply to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education for approval for Housing Aid funds for construction. Under Housing Aid, communities fund construction projects by issuing bonds and then receive reimbursement for the local share of costs only after the project is completed.
For further information: Contact Raphe A. Sciola, Administrative Assistant, Offices of the Mayor and City Manager, 401-845-5437 and rsciola@CityofNewport.com