PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration has asked city council to approve a new $ 140 million bond for school buildings, which must also be approved by voters.
If approved, the money could be spent in part to build a new kindergarten to grade 8 school, according to a new project worklist submitted to city council on Thursday.
The list of projects – which is not finalized – estimates the cost of the new school building at $ 75 million. RI Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green first revealed in June that the state was planning a new K-8 school in South Providence. (The state took control of the neighborhood last year, but the city still controls the buildings.)
The recently published list of projects does not say where the school would be. The city has previously confirmed that talks are underway with Joe Paolino, owner of the former St. Joseph Hospital building, to transform the facility into an educational space.
The new $ 140 million loan would be in addition to the $ 160 million bond voters approved in 2018, which has yet to be borrowed. (There is a five-year expiration for borrowing money.)
The final question on school obligations is about to be approved for the ballot in November. Providence City Council has called a special meeting for Friday to approve it before the deadline to forward it to the Providence Council of Solicitors next week.
Bond issues must also go through the General Assembly, and a bill authorizing borrowing was passed by the House finance committee on Wednesday evening. The committee heard no testimony.
The combined $ 300 million (including the two bonds) would be used to pay for Providence’s five-year capital improvement plan for school buildings, passed in 2019, which a city spokesperson said will be changed. in August.
The Elorza administration also provided an updated working list of projects for the $ 160 million bond on Thursday, listing 27 schools slated for repairs or upgrades, including the unused Windmill Street School, which is listed. as “swing space” in the document. .
Jordan Day, deputy chief executive of Elorza, told a meeting of the council’s finance committee on Thursday that RIDE had approved funding for nearly $ 50 million of projects, meaning the city would only borrow $ 110 million instead of the $ 160 million voters allowed.
RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green has repeatedly said school buildings in very poor condition could be taken offline so that resources can be spent on new buildings or other school renovations , but neither the state nor the city have identified a specific school that may close.
The discussion about improving or building schools comes at a time when it is not clear if students will even occupy buildings when the new year begins on August 31st.
State health officials are expected to make a final decision on whether to reopen schools around August 17, and new measures released on Wednesday indicate the state is not processing COVID-19 tests quickly enough to open at this time.
The new bond issue was only publicly revealed this week, when it was discussed at a meeting of the city council’s finance committee.
“This is the first time that this has come to our attention,” President John Igliozzi said on Tuesday. “Why is the council hearing about it now?” “
The city’s chief financial officer, Larry Mancini, said the new loan proposal came from “critical policy changes” in the school’s capital plan that needed more money.
“We know that every investment in our youth is an investment in the future of our city,” Elorza said in a statement. “We now have a unique opportunity before us to create the welcoming, vibrant and inspiring spaces our youth and families have advocated for years. This is why, in partnership with the municipal council of Providence, I am giving priority to this investment of 140 million dollars as another step towards the construction of the 21st education system of the century that our community needs.
Part of the funds borrowed for the construction of the school may be repaid by the state, but it is not yet known exactly how much.