Letter: You can vote no and still support education

Posted 10/25/23

To the editor:

Contrary to how it is being positioned by some, the vote on the current “not to exceed $250 million” bond is not a binary choice between “for” or …

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Letter: You can vote no and still support education


To the editor:

Contrary to how it is being positioned by some, the vote on the current “not to exceed $250 million” bond is not a binary choice between “for” or “against” education in town. It is a vote on how we work to improve Barrington schools.

I suspect most residents are in support of education and the need for facilities improvement. Exhibit A, the BMS bond. However, for many, it is a point of whether a shove-our-chips-to-the-middle, all-in, economic handcuffs approach is a right one for the fiscal health of the town today and for future generations.

The tact the school committee took, irrespective of Option 2 or 5, always made this a boom-or-bust issue. At no point, was a longer-term, more sustainable alternative offered. We need $250m or else. Given the state of school facilities, an approach similar to the current RhodeWorks plan is warranted. A programmatic approach ensures the schools can be improved and maintained, while still preserving the financial flexibility of the town to pursue non-educational initiatives (climate resiliency, affordable housing, etc.)

Tying the financial hands of the town with a $250m bond commitment limits the town’s ability to respond to a future risk. Tripling the town’s debt load in a single bond is irresponsible and jeopardizes the affordability of Barrington. Last week HousingWorks RI reported a $217,492 household income is needed to buy a home in Barrington. Yet Barrington’s 2021 household income was $126,250, a 15 percent YoY decline. That suggests few households are ready to swallow an extra $1,000 bill just for the bond and before other budget increases.

Might some reimbursement be lost? Certainly. But that is like the “$25 off…IF you spend $100 coupon” coupon. You risk spending money you don’t have just to ‘save’ some money. But let’s not miss out on a “Once in a lifetime opportunity?” How many times has that phrase been uttered on QVC? Winning PowerBall is a once in a lifetime opportunity too. Not a fiscally responsible decision-making strategy.

Prior administrations have ignored facilities issues in favor of their costly pet educational projects. The school start time debacle cost the town around $2 million in additional bussing costs over the past four years, monies that could have been used for facilities improvement. And how in the name of all that is holy and worthy of a modicum of common sense would the School Committee turn the $4 million surplus from the BMS bond over to the town instead of using it for this much needed capital improvements? The choice is honestly perplexing.

The amorphous bond approval language itself is concerning. The bond technically is not limited to building construction or only reimbursable activities. 

Whichever side of the $250 million bond issue one falls, hopefully we can all acknowledge that voting ‘no’ and supporting Barrington education are not mutually exclusive choices and most residents are supportive of the town’s educational environment (and more importantly the Barrington teachers).

Jason Leigh


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.