Finance Committee approves $40 million school bond proposal

Posted 12/13/23

Prices have risen everywhere in the last few years and several school projects are costing far more than originally projected, requiring just more funding to get across the finish line.

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Finance Committee approves $40 million school bond proposal


Prices have risen everywhere in the last few years and several school projects are costing far more than originally projected, requiring just more funding to get across the finish line.

The Cranston City Council Finance Committee  approved a resolution December 4 which, if passed by the city council, would ask voters to approve  $40 million in school bonds next year.

The bipartisan resolution was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli, chair for the finance committee Councilman John Donegan, and Council President Jessica Marino. Funding from the bonds would go towards the completion of the new Gladstone Elementary building, and the possible purchase and renovation of the building housing the Apprenticeship Exploration charter school.

Taking advantage of 74% reimbursement rate offered to the city of Cranston for school construction projects from the Rhode Island Department of Education, including 74% of any interest accrued. According to Chief of Staff for Mayor Hopkins Anthony Moretti, the bonds would come with a 4-5% interest rate at most by 2027, according to current projections. This would functionally turn $40 million into $10 million.

Of the $40 million making up the proposed bonds, $12 million is earmarked for the Apprentice Exploration School (AES). AES is a small district charter serving students from Cranston and surrounding communities which works in close partnership with the Laborers’ International Union of North America New England Region. The building in which it operates is currently rented by CPS, and is in need of several renovations and improvements. The director of AES Lindsay Tavares described classrooms which have walls that don’t reach for the ceiling, and the noise which carries from room to room causing disturbances and distractions throughout the day.

“Despite the very, very hard work of our dedicated staff, it can be a very difficult environment to learn when there's so much noise reverberation in the building,” Tavares said.

In the days leading up to the finance committee meeting, a misconception by interested parties grew that the full $12 million would go directly towards the purchase of the AES building. This is not the case, according to Finance Committee Chair John Donegan.

“We are not going to buy that for $12 million,” he said. “That would be ludicrous.”

Of the $12 million proposed, something in the ball park of $2.5 million would go to the actual purchase of the building, and the rest would go towards renovation and improvement.

Donegan continued in his clarification during an interview with the Herald that the entire process would be utterly transparent, with many opportunities for input from the community.

“If we go out to bond for $40 million, first it has to be approved by the full city council, and then it needs to be approved by the voters in the city of Cranston,” he said. “So that’s just assuming that all of that goes through, The city would then go out for $40 million, and that would be done through close collaboration with the school department, the city administration, finance committee, budgeting process. There would be multiple opportunities for residents to provide input.”

The majority of the rest of the bond money would go to completing the new Gladstone Elementary building. Combining the old Gladstone with Arlington elementary, the new school will be similar to the new Garden City building which opened earlier this year. The building’s construction began in July of this year and was given a budget of $83 million. However, since the pandemic and subsequent inflation, millions more in funding are now necessary for construction to meet its projected completion in 2025.

The resolution will be voted upon by the full city council on December 18. Should it pass, it will then be voted on by Cranstonians in a special election sometime next year. The percentage of reimbursement for school construction projects from the Dept. of Education will drop from 74% to 50% sometime next year.

finance, schools, bonds


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