WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ After looking into whether to use part of a proposed school improvement bond to fund brand new athletic fields, the Warwick City Council decided to cosponsor an additional bond of up to $10 million.
City Council President Steven Merolla had hoped the initially proposed $56 million school improvement bond would help fund new turf fields for the district, but the council ultimately decided to create a separate bond instead. The new bond still needs to be approved by the Warwick school department.
The proposed $56 million bond, according to Warwick Superintendent Philip Thornton, would mostly go toward projects impacting grades K-8.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, Solomon said while he supports the school improvement bond, it’s important to determine how the money is spent.
“The $56 million bond, which was the result of months of careful planning and rigorous vetting, is for school improvements,” Solomon said. “The city of Warwick will receive up to 52% in reimbursement from the state for needed repairs to ensure that our school buildings are warm, safe and dry. We would not receive ANY reimbursement for field improvements.”
But Merolla said the Rhode Island Department of Education told him the city could be reimbursed for field improvements.
“They said that they would,” Merolla said. “I don’t know if the mayor has taken the time to go meet with RIDE.”
Merolla argues that new turf fields would be beneficial not only for the athletes who use them but for the city as well. He said the fields could end up bringing in additional revenue, for example, when private soccer clubs pay to practice on them.
Solomon said he agrees that improvements need to be made to the fields, but he isn’t sure if the school bond could make that happen. He said he’s looking into other ways to fund field improvements.
“We must ensure that our tax dollars are being deployed in the most efficient, effective way possible,” Solomon said. “When we spend our tax dollars in the most cost-effective manner, we can do more for our residents with our money.”
Merolla said voters in Warwick will have the ultimate say in November on whether to approve the proposed bond when they head to the polls.