Voters approve $68.4M project for new Barrington Middle School

Nearly 1,000 Barrington residents packed the town’s high school Thursday night ahead of a vote to finalize the approval of a $68.4 million tax increase to build a new middle school. (WJAR)

Nearly 1,000 Barrington residents packed the town’s high school Thursday night ahead of a vote to finalize the approval of a $68.4 million project to build a new middle school.

After about four hours of a heated debate, voters approved it 590 to 349.

In November, voters passed a referendum to lift the tax cap to finance the project.

Then, in February, the Town Council unanimously passed a resolution to seek approval from the state to exceed the 4 percent cap on the increase in the town’s total tax levy in order to finance the project through a 25-year municipal bond.

A special Financial Town Meeting was then scheduled to seek final approval for the funding that’s required, with so many people showing up that they had to be redirected to an “overflow room.”

“I can understand the need for a school,” a man said. “I have a lot of questions about how much they're spending.

Others shared similar sentiments.

“The costs are going up,” another woman said. “Slapping Band-Aids on BMS is not going to work. We need to rebuild it.”

School officials claim the cost to repair is actually more than to the $68 million to rebuild.

But those against it think that price tag is too steep, will drive up their taxes, and drive people out of town.

“Not good math,” another man said. “You guys need to balance your check book a little better.”

The plan will increase the town's tax load by more than $5 million -- or nearly 9 percent -- this coming year. For example, a $250,000 home would see a tax increase of $450.

When asked what he would say to the people who don't want to spend the money, Superintendent Michael Messore said, “Well, I think, one, it's always going to be a good investment for the students of our town and for the future students of our town. And I think it will always be a good investment for our taxpayers in this town.”

The existing middle school was closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to several roof leaks following Tuesday’s snow storm. It will re-open Friday after repairs were made to the roof.

“Over the past two days, the custodians, roofing company, and professional cleaning company have been hard at work drying, remediating, and cleaning,” school officials noted in a press release, adding that a professional hygienist conducted air quality tests. “We are pleased to report that all air quality tests came back within normal limits.”

Still, two classrooms, along with the library, will not be ready for the re-opening. More cleaning will resume Friday night, as well as throughout the weekend.

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