RI voters to decide whether to spend $250M to rebuild schools

(WJAR)

$250 million over five years.

Question 1 on next Tuesday’s ballot will ask voters across Rhode Island if they want to pay up for school repairs and construction.

“We have school buildings all over the state of Rhode Island that are literally falling apart,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is leading the effort to pass Question 1.

“Kids deserve this. Teachers deserve it. And the longer we wait to do it, the more expensive it's going to be to fix,” Magaziner said.

Magaziner has been pointing out crumbling schools around the state for the better part of a year.

The bonds would give cities and towns incentives to make improvements.

“The health and safety of our children should be our highest priority,” he said.

Magaziner maintains the state can afford the bonds.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” he said.

Mike Stenhouse, who heads the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, disagrees.

“We just can't afford any more debt,” Stenhouse said.

Stenhouse argues funding school building on this scale is not the state's problem.

“We don't believe state taxpayers should be bailing out local communities because of the negligence of elected officials on school committees and on town and city councils and to not appropriately take care of the buildings themselves,” he said.

“The cost of that is steep, but at the same time it gets money into school construction,” said John Simmons of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

Simmons said the school bonds would take up a good chunk of what the state typically borrows in a given year.

“This will limit the amount of projects that the state will be doing,” Simmons said.

That's not the only education bond question on the ballot.

Question 2 will ask voters if they want to approve $45 million for the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus and $25 million at the Rhode Island College School of Education and Human Development.

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