Letter to the Editor: Support the Middletown School Bond – An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost.

To the Editor:

In 2022 the majority of the Middletown Town Council supported the concept of regionalization and put to the voters a $235,000,000 Bond to build a new Middle/High School and one large Elementary school. That prospect had a reimbursement rate from the RI Department of Education (RIDE) of up to 80.5% and other significant financial incentives related to transportation. The majority of Middletown voters approved both referendums with the School Bond overwhelmingly garnering 75% of the vote. Due to no fault of the Middletown electorate this plan did not come to fruition.

Since that time the School Building Committee went back to work to develop a project to go forward with. They collaborated further with the Town Administration, Town Council, School Administration, the School Committee, the Project Manager, and the Architects to deliver the best possible prospect to the community. This new proposal is for $190,000,000 and makes possible the construction of the new Middle High School and repairs to be done to the current High School and Forest Avenue to allow for their continued use. This plan has a projected RIDE reimbursement of up to 55%. While not as enticing as the previous allotment it still would relieve Middletown taxpayers of a great proportion of the costs.

There are still other potential reimbursements in addition to what has been outlined by the municipality. However, to ensure that only accurate information is disseminated, the Town waits for confirmation. One such announcement is the recent RIDE Housing Aid increase per square foot (/sf). Up until now that reimbursement was set at $555/sf for Middle Schools and $589/sf for High Schools. The new rates are $592/sf and $628/sf respectively as reported by RIDE. The School Building Committee calculated the project costs at $700/sf to help ensure adequate funds for the venture and reduce the possibility of overages. This led to in $28.7 million in stand-alone debt that wasn’t reimbursable. The outcome of the updated allowance results in an additional 7% in Housing Aid thus reducing the bill the Town would incur with no assistance. This is just one example of other positive financial impacts that may occur if the process continues.

If we do not pursue this current chance any repairs or renovations will be done without any likelihood of RIDE reimbursements. Their direction to the Committee’s submission to just make repairs was No Bandaids, must have significant educational enhancements and no disruption to the educational process.

It is the duty of the Town Council to present the residents of Middletown with opportunities that would benefit the community and that is what is being done in this instance. There is no disputing that this is still a very substantial debt to take on, but it is doable, and it is being suggested for all the appropriate reasons. The current RIDE compensation program will end in June of 2024 and there is no expectation of continued funding in this area.

It is your decision as to whether you will support this or not, but in doing so please seek out the facts from reliable sources. Visit the Town’s and or the School Department’s website or email/call Town Council members with questions. I have already cast my ballot to support this endeavor and hope you will do the same. An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost.

Peter D. Connerton, Sr.
Middletown Resident, Taxpayer & Town Councilor




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