Letter To The Editor: Alliance For A Livable Newport voices its concerns regarding school plans

Rogers High School

Alliance For A Livable Newport provided the following opinion and letter to What’sUpNewp on July 22nd.

BACKGROUND

At the Newport Public Schools Building Committee meeting on July 16, estimated costs of an all new High School on Wickham Rd. along with a pre-K through 1st grade early learning center (ELC) and improvements to Thompson and Pell were presented and discussed. Options for the ELC included either a new building on the Rogers campus site or on the former Coggeshall school site.

Projected costs total nearly $190 million. Up to 52.5% of costs could be reimbursed by the State, leaving the City Council and then the public to approve a bond close to $90 million dollars.  Most often, actual costs will exceed projected costs significantly.

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It is estimated that such a bond would necessitate raising property taxes between 7-10%. What would that mean to middle class homeownership in Newport?

The School superintendent and school committee plan to submit their “Stage 1” plan to City Council on August 5th and then to the Department of Education, pending Council approval on the 14th.  It is claimed that such timing is required to have the bond voted on at the November 2020 to take advantage of the funding reimbursement for new school construction.

ALN CONCERNS

We feel this is an unnecessary rush to judgment and a faulty decision for four primary reasons:

1.     This plan represents the largest municipal expenditure in city history, not only impacting city taxpayers but our school children’s future. Given the projected costs that were presented, voters are unlikely to approve such spending.  If approved, consider the impact on property taxes and what that implies for Newport’s financial future. If disapproved, there currently is no “Plan B”.

2.     Insufficient time is provided for both the Council and Community to properly review such plans and fully understand the significant cost implications. The stated reason for decision making is that RI state reimbursements may be lost.

Meeting with our state legislators and RIDE officials is needed to discuss what options are available if Newport does not meet current deadlines and if extensions to the deadlines can be made by RIDE or legislative action.

3.     Alternatives to these plans haven’t been fully explored, specifically a 5-7yr. short term “fix” to Rogers HS until land becomes available via the RIDOT ramp re-alignment project for an all new high school located closer to the school population. Or shorter term, utilizing city owned land adjacent to CCRI.

4.     Building an all-new High School on the current Rogers site closes the door to unification or regionalization, as Middletown/Portsmouth are unlikely to want to send their entire high school populations to the southern end of the Island.

RECOMMENDATION

ALN and its Board of Directors recommend to City council that such NPS/School Committee plans not be approved until the above concerns are addressed. 

Respectfully,

The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN)

Ron Becker

Isabel Griffith

John Hirschboeck

ALN Co-Presidents

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