So Democrat Governor of Rhode Island Gina Raimondo wants Rhode Islanders to make a “once-in-a-generation investment” to fix our substandard school buildings, and I can’t help but wonder: Where is all the money we’re already spending going?
Rhode Island’s public schools need $627.5 million worth of major repairs to simply put students out of harm’s way, according to a major independent study commissioned by state officials.
But it would cost $2.2 billion to bring schools to an ideal condition — buildings that are energy-efficient, offer the right mix of technology and provide plenty of sunlight and fresh air.
The first thing to note is that $2.2 billion isn’t all that much higher (relatively) than the $1.8 billion that the state proclaimed a few years ago. Suffice to say that it’s a lot of money and that this isn’t a surprise.
But again: Where is all the money going that we’re already spending? This whole thing has the feel of a government scam. The first marker is that, by just about any measure, Rhode Islanders pay a great deal in taxes. How can that not be enough to cover basic maintenance and improvement of something that’s long been considered a central function.
The second marker that raises questions about this new ask for huge taxpayer expenditures and debt is how we’re coming up with these numbers. Tiverton, for example, is listed as having $46 million in “deficiency costs,” but the town is already paying off $54 million in debt for construction and repairs. How did we reach the point of requiring $100 million in school repairs for a district serving about 1,800 students?
Something isn’t right with this whole pitch across the state, and Rhode Islanders should insist that elected officials figure it out before agreeing to put themselves into even more debt.