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Council Approves New High School, Voters Will Decide in November

While the 2018 ballot remains uncertain for the 2018 City Council hopefuls, it just had one more item added. At a special meeting of the City Council last night (April 5th), the Council approved, 5-0 a resolution to move a bond referendum to the next stage. The high school proposal will now proceed to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the state Board of Education and eventually to the voters this fall. The Council will have more work to do as a formal bond ordinance will need to be approved per the city's charter.

State Fiscal Advisor Paul Luba

The Council heard first from the state appointed fiscal advisor, Paul Luba, who is nearing the end of his term in East Providence. Luba took the Council through the fiscal impact of the high school on the five year plan. While Luba cautioned that the city would need to manage its finances carefully, he did not caution against the proposal. The high school would raise the projected tax increases in the five year plan, a proposal to smooth out the increases, credited to City Manager Malcolm Moore would keep the increases at four percent for the spread of five years, using the 2.3 million a year previously earmarked for fiscal year synchronization to pay the debt service. That would translate to $16 a month in property tax increases for the average homeowner.

Luba cautioned that while the city would be in a stronger financial position given its reserves should the 'perfect storm' come to fruition similar to the last great recession that caused the Budget Commission to take over city operations. The city and school department cannot run any deficits at the risk of not being able to secure Tax Anticipation Notes (TANs) to bridge the unsynchronized fiscal year given that the city would also already be carrying a high debt to levy ratio with the high school bond. The school bond would put the city's debt at 6% of the tax levy.

Ward 1 Councilman Robert Britto

After a brief period of questions to Mr. Luba and Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Crowley. Each council member, starting with Ward 1 Councilman Robert Britto, signaled their support "This is a long term goal, not only for the kids but the community as a whole" Mr. Britto opined. Ward 4 Councilman Brian Faria weighed in "As a father and as a taxpayer I support this 500%" he also stated that his daughter, currently at Riverside Middle School had instructed him to vote for the new high school.  "The best investment you can make in in your children" Faria concluded. Ward 3 Councilman Joseph Botelho added "This city has been starving for investment for 30 or 40 years and it's about time"

After the roll call, there was jubilation in the chambers; applause, cheering and hugs as the Council adjourned.