Bristol and Warren voters are set to make perhaps the most significant financial decision in their combined history in just over a month, so why is there so little apparent interest in the topic?
Bristol and Warren voters are set to make perhaps the most significant financial decision in their combined history in just over a month; a decision with implications that will persist for decades both in terms of tax dollars spent, and the educational future of many upcoming generations of students.
That being said, it is difficult to not be discouraged by the apparent lack of engagement that the community has shown in partaking in the process surrounding the $200 million school bond that will be before them to approve or deny in four short weeks.
Monday night marked the first public meeting dedicated solely to presenting information and answering questions from the general public. By a rough count, around 30 people sat in the audience at Mt. Hope High School’s cafeteria, over half of which were representatives from either the school district or school committee. There may have actually been more members of the school’s consultancy team present than there were inquisitive members of the community in attendance.
We cannot lay the disinterest at the feet of the school district or their communication strategy. They have been present at dozens of community events over the summer, and have likewise made their project team available to answer questions of all sorts. Information on the bond, meeting materials, and presentations are available on the district website for anyone to view. A notice went out to all parents, staff, and students advising them of Monday’s meeting on Sept. 26, more than enough lead time. The meeting itself was informative and streamed, available for anyone to view now on YouTube. A tax impact calculator will be available to residents hopefully by this time next week. All good things.
If we had one piece of constructive criticism for the district, it would be to clean up the information on the website a bit. There are too many disparate, ambiguous links to navigate to find the information desired, and could be cleaned up to make the information a bit easier to digest. The information also should be regularly updated. We recommend looking into what Barrington has done for their own bond initiative as an example of how to streamline the most important information in a more concise and efficient manner.
Of course, as the adage goes, you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the taxpayers in Bristol and Warren to become interested in this historic decision and conduct their own analysis.