Regionalization Decision is Worth Almost Half a Billion Dollars
for Middletown and Newport
In June, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the regionalization of the Middletown and Newport schools. Experts in educational finances have spent the summer researching the possible operational and capital funding benefits of regionalization, gathering community feedback, and developing recommendations to leverage those efficiencies to optimize student educational outcomes. For Middletown and Newport public school regionalization to occur: • The regionalization proposition must pass in both Middletown and Newport. • Middletown must authorize a $235 million bond. As a result of regionalization, both communities will realize benefits educationally and financially. Newport will realize an additional $46 million in state reimbursement for the Rogers High School and Pell Elementary School construction projects.
In addition to regionalization, Middletown must authorize a $235 million bond. Plans for the bond program are to construct replacements for Middletown High School and Gaudet Middle School and construct one new elementary school to replace the three existing elementary schools. Regionalization must pass in order for Middletown to realize State Housing Aid necessary to take on the $235 million bond and for Newport to receive an additional $46 million in State Housing Aid Reimbursement. The initial budget for the regionalized school district would allow for operational savings to be reinvested into the classroom at the discretion of the regional school and finance committees. Comparing a combined Middletown Newport school district to districts of similar size, the analysis identified $2.4 to $4.8 million in potential operating efficiencies. It should be noted that all efficiencies were assumed at the administrative level and not in the classroom. The possibilities for gaining operational efficiencies and providing additional educational programs will ultimately be the responsibility of the regional school committee.
School Regionalization Act Highlights
In June, the Rhode Island Senate and House passed House Bill 8267 Substitute. The Act gives the two municipalities the authority to create a combined regional school district, so long as voters from both communities approve the idea in the general election on Nov. 8, 2022. The Act outlines governance and administrative functions for the new regionalized school district. Highlights from the legislation include: • Regionalization will allow 80 percent State Housing Aid reimbursement. • The first business day would be July 1, 2024. • Local school committees shall continue to operate until July 1, 2024. • Equal representation on the regional school and finance committees. • The first election of the regional school committee will be in November 2023. • The regional district is a separate and distinct entity with the power of condemnation and the power to bond. • The regional district education costs shall be apportioned between the City and Town based on the number of students. • State and federal aid allocated to the respective municipality rolls up to the regional school district and will be credited towards that municipalities’ share of the educational costs.
Governance Designed for Equal Representation
In June, the Rhode Island Senate and House passed House Bill 8267 Substitute A, which lays out a procedure for equal governance. Voters will decide who represents them on the seven-person regional school committee, with the Top 3 vote-getters from Newport and Middletown winning seats and the seventh member being the candidate from either community with the most voters. A seven-person regional finance committee will then be appointed by the Middletown and Newport councils to balance representation equally (e.g., if four of the seven school committee members are from Newport, four of the seven financial committee members would be from Middletown). The Act defines governance that establishes: • Equal representation for both communities. • July 1, 2024, will be the first day of business. The regional school committee: • Is created through an at-large vote. • Engages and employs a superintendent. • Is responsible for the care and control of all public school facilities in the district. • Is responsible for equipping academic programs. The regional finance committee consists of seven members designated by the town/city managers and councils. The seventh seat belongs to the community with three regional school committee members. The finance committee is responsible for: • Reviewing and approving annual budgets. • Ruthorizing the issuance of bonds approved by voters and debts.