NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Newport School Committee leaders warn they are millions of dollars over budget for the new Rogers High School.
During a special joint meeting Monday night, Joe DeSanti, the school project’s manager, said their overall funding source for the project is about $114 million.
But, as with other major construction projects in the state, costs are rising, and new estimates now put the project cost anywhere from 3 to 11 million over budget.
“A couple things have been happening,” DeSanti explained. “Price escalation is happening. there’s more demand, there’s more money in the market now than ever, more construction activity now than ever. There’s less contractors out there, less labor out there, less material out there as well.”
In 2020, residents approved roughly $95 million to build a new school, which would be focused on career and technical programs.
But city leaders point out the estimate was made before the pandemic. And with construction costs going up, the budget is running low.
“We’re down to that last $22 million, and we have to figure out how to spend that wisely to keep the project on schedule,” School Committee Vice Chair Louisa Boatwright explained.
Boatwright and School Committee Chair Rebecca Bolan told 12 News they estimate the project is already 10 percent over what it was supposed to be.
The construction project has also dealt with delays. School committee leaders say it was supposed to be finished by fall 2024, but now they’re expecting construction to wrap up in spring 2025.
One of the options that are also being considered is whether or not another bond vote should be held for residents.
“We’re going to put together another stage one in September, then stage two in February and then with the April … we’d have to talk to the council today, but maybe having an election,” she said.
Newport resident Pam Quinn told 12 News she wants answers, but she also wants to make sure students get a school that will last generations.
“Make it last. Whatever decisions are made, they need to work for the long term,” Quinn said.
DeSanti said they expect to have more concrete estimates by the end of August or mid-September. At that point, city leaders will be tasked with figuring out where to go next.
Those future discussions could include finding areas of the project that could be deferred or potentially going before voters to request additional funding.
“This is all words and gobbledygook until we have the numbers,” Newport City Councilman David Carlin III said. “I believe that the budget should dictate the project. I don’t think the project should dictate the budget.”
“We know, no matter what, the number one priority is the students,” Newport Public Schools Superintendant Colleen Burns Germain said. “Any and all programming for students will not be discontinued, to the best of all our efforts.”