open letter newport ri

We are all faced with difficult choices.  Supporting Newport’s school construction bond should not be one of those choices.

Rogers High School has reached the end of its useful life.  Investments over the years in science rooms, gymnasium, heating system, roofing, parking areas and other maintenance related projects have allowed the building to continue to operate.  Now, however, after multiple professional assessments, the city knows that renovation of the building would likely cost in excess of $72M and that no state reimbursement for construction costs would be available.

Newport is blessed to have a rich and diverse school community.  A walk down Broadway reveals this through the banners celebrating the RHS class of 2020.  Go Vikings!   The city has a responsibility to provide these students a safe, warm and dry state of the art high school educational facility that will serve the class of 2070.  The design put forth, which integrates Career and Technical Education with college preparatory and Advanced Placement classes in a flexible layout, will serve the community for generations to come.  A review of the RIDE Stage II Educational Supplement on the NPS website reveals the details of the design that evolved through numerous community interactions and endless hours of building committee inputs.    I am highly appreciative of the years of work that members of that committee have put in to bring forward a building design for Newport voter approval.

Newport can afford the cost of a new high school.  Newport cannot afford to pass up the 52% reimbursement opportunity.  Without the school construction bond, which 84% of Newport voters approved in 2018, the state would only reimburse 35% of the cost.  While nominal estimates of the tax impact of the school construction have been made, the city has many financial tools available than can be utilized to reduce or eliminate those increases.  Next year the Thompson Middle School bond will be retired and those funds could be directed to payment of the RHS construction bond.  The city council can also set budget priorities and request that our very capable finance director develop options which result in no increase to taxpayers.

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As the former chairperson of the Newport School Committee during the Pell School Construction project, I know that the city, school committee and building committee can work together with the project owners’ representative and construction company to deliver a high quality project on time and within budget.  The citizens of Newport have always supported the generations of families and students that make us a community.  Voting for the school construction bond will continue that long legacy of commitment to families.

Patrick Kelley, Newport, RI