Portsmouth superintendent makes pitch for $21.44M bond referendum

Question 1 on healthy and safety improvements in schools goes before voters Nov. 2

By Jim McGaw
Posted 9/27/21

PORTSMOUTH — Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy is making the rounds, looking for voter support on an upcoming bond issue that asks to borrow $21.44 million to make much-needed “health …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Portsmouth superintendent makes pitch for $21.44M bond referendum

Question 1 on healthy and safety improvements in schools goes before voters Nov. 2

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy is making the rounds, looking for voter support on an upcoming bond issue that asks to borrow $21.44 million to make much-needed “health and safety improvements” to all four school buildings.

He traveled to Prudence Island on Sept. 18, and then to Town Hall Monday night, to make two separate pitches before the Town Council in hopes of winning public support on the bond question.

The school bond referendum will be Question 1 on the special election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Question 2 will ask voters to approve the transfer of the “property interest” of the Portsmouth Senior Center property to Church Community Housing (CCH). A majority of “yes” votes would allow CCH to apply for funding to build an affordable housing complex and new senior center on Bristol Ferry Road. That proposal, however, would still require more public feedback and final Town Council approval.

The school district proposal, which calls for extensive improvements on all four district school buildings, was once estimated at $65 million. Due to the pandemic and other factors, however, the district withdrew its Stage II application to the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) in April 2020, and did some serious re-tinkering to focus on health and safety improvements to bring the estimated cost down to $21.44 million.

The plan calls for renovating all school bathrooms, installing air conditioning in the high school field house, installing an elevator at Hathaway, abating remaining asbestos materials in the schools, and other improvements. About $7.69 million in improvements is being proposed at Melville School, $7.3 million at Hathaway, $4.58 million at the high school, and $1.86 million at the middle school.

During both appearances before the council, Kenworthy said that under the Rhode Island School Construction Program, Portsmouth has a one-time opportunity to earn a 40-percent reimbursement — about $8.6 million — from RIDE to offset the cost of the proposed projects. That means the town’s share for the improvements would be about $12.86 million, and the initial annual tax impact would be $56.70 for the owner of a $250,000 home, and $113.40 for the owner of a $500,000 home.

The improvements will have to be made “in one shape or form” over the next few years anyway, the superintendent said. “The alternative is, these projects will stretch out over many years and ultimately cost the taxpayers of Portsmouth much more,” Kenworthy said, noting that the district was not asking voters to fund the construction of a new school, as Barrington and Newport has done recently.

The last year the school district had a bond on the ballot was 2004, he added. 

For detailed information on the school bond referendum, Kenworthy said residents should visit www.portsmouthschoolsri.org.

Voter information

Mail ballot applications were mailed out to registered Portsmouth voters last week. Sunday, Oct. 3, is the deadline to register to vote in the election, and the town’s Canvassing Office at Town Hall will be open until 4 p.m. on that day.

The deadline to submit applications for mail-in ballots is Tuesday, Oct. 12, and Wednesday, Oct. 13, is the first day of early in-person voting at Town Hall (weekdays through Monday, Nov. 1).

Tuesday, Nov. 2, is Election Day, with the polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
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.