Anchor Staff Writer
Tuesday is Election Day. People all over the state will flock to their local polling places to decide who is going to represent them in a number of elected offices. Many questions about the candidates are left unanswered as of now, but residents of the Ocean State will have to vote on some major decisions regarding the future of Rhode Island that won’t have to do with any political candidate.
Voters are faced with three major questions on Tuesday, all relating to state projects being funded by bonds. If approved, the state will borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to fund various projects. These principal amounts will also come with calculated interest, and these final amounts are paid back using taxes. This, as one could imagine, may split voter opinion on what issues are important enough to warrant such a high price tag.
The first question voters will be faced with is in regards to a $100 million dollar building plan for the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus. According to the official Rhode Island Voter Information Handbook, if approved, the funds will be used, “for repairs and to construct new facilities on the URI Narragansett Bay Campus in support of the educational and research needs for the marine disciplines.” This includes ocean engineering, oceanography and other related fields. If approved, the project would be completed and all facilities would be ready to be used by September 2026. The estimate for the useful life of the facilities, according to the handbook, is approximately 50 years.
Question two on the ballot relates to Rhode Island’s school buildings. It seeks approval for $250 million dollars to “provide funding for the construction, renovation, and rehabilitation of the state’s public schools.” The handbook goes on to explain, “bonds will be used to improve Pre-K through grade 12 public school facilities and equip them for 21st century learning. Every school district will be eligible to receive direct funding for school construction projects. Funding may be used to address immediate health and safety concerns, early childhood education, career and technical education, and other educational needs including but not limited to science labs, libraries and modern learning technology.”
If question two is approved, school districts can get the funding starting next year. Those districts that are approved for funding must break ground on the projects within five years of being approved. Similar to question one, the estimate on useful life for these projects is approximately 50 years.
Question three on the ballot does not focus on education based projects, but instead on environmental and recreational projects. If approved, the state will allocate $50 million dollars across nine different projects to “invest in improving the environment and public recreation facilities.” Notable potential projects relating to question three include a $12 million dollar allocation to Roger Williams Park and Zoo, as well as two separate three million dollar proposals to ensure the restoration, maintenance and protection/sustainability of the state’s water quality, wildlife/aquatic habitats and forests, along with any related infrastructure or properties.
All projects listed in question three are estimated to be completed within five years of commencement, and have an estimated useful life of between 25 to 50 years. Voters will have to determine if all, some or none of these proposals are top priorities when it comes to the future of Rhode Island. If voters elect “Yes” on all three questions, then a final bill amount after interest of $641,940,750 can be expected.