Newport This Week

Proposed School Bond Is Hollow Promise

The proposed bond issue for a new Middletown school is nothing but a hollow promise of education. For years, election campaigns by members of the Town Council proudly proclaimed that tax rates have not increased. Left unsaid was underfunded education. Left unsaid was the lowering of test scores. Left unsaid was the elimination of teachers and staff. Left unsaid was the unending hostility by the Town Council towards education.

At a recent Town Council meeting, Katrina High spoke about the elimination of a number of positions at the school for lack of funding, impacting music, art, the library, a social worker, deans, reading, custodians and others. Previously, Council President Paul Rodrigues told us that he would not vote to approve a plan unless it included space for vocational education.

This begs the question. What is the point of building a new school without the funds to staff it? The Middletown Town Council now appears eager to raise taxes, an increase that will be quite large, for a new school. And yet nothing, not a thing, for education. One would think that before spending $190 million on brick and steel, not to mention the stress this would place on the town’s finances, that the council would first have considered how to improve the education of the town’s children. Here is Mr. Rodrigues responding to Ms. High: “We got to kind of balance that between the taxpayers and schools.” At the risk of repetition, a huge tax increase for a building, but no tax increase for education.

The Town Council has failed its most basic obligations to its citizens. It has demonstrated the inability to look ahead. It has shown an unwillingness to make hard decisions. It has given us the spectacle of looking for easy answers when there are none. And now it has boxed itself into a corner. Crisis management (yes, this is what we have happening here) is hardly an endorsement of those who have put the town’s well-being at risk.

Lawrence Frank Middletown

One response to “Proposed School Bond Is Hollow Promise”

  1. Rob Cummings says:

    You’re right: Better buildings do not guarantee a better education. Higher teacher salaries — and the willingness to conduct regional searches for top talent — are probably the most important factors in improving educational outcomes.

    Moreover, the proposed $190 million building bond is just too big for a town with total annual tax revenue of roughly $80 million. The total cost of the loan over a 25-year term is $316 million.

    According to Middletown’s own financial consultants, the bond issue would knock the town’s debt-rating down to BBB (2/2/2023 NTW). If passed in November, that $190-million bond issue would severely limit the town’s options for future financing. It could be the last loan Middletown ever takes.

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