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C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. December 20, 2015

School Building Authority proposal now before the General Assembly

The buildings in many of the 296 schools in Rhode Island are in tough shape, and Gov. Gina Raimondo promised during her campaign to take action to address that problem by creating a Rhode Island School Building Authority to prioritize projects and help get them financed.

In March, Raimondo took some initial steps toward establishing that group and giving it control over funding to renovate and rebuild school facilities.

Her plan, contained in Article 9 of her budget proposal, calls for creating a seven-member building authority to be led by the state director of administration and include the general treasurer, a member of the governor's staff and four at-will gubernatorial appointees with expertise in education, construction, real estate or finance.

Staff for the building authority would come from the Rhode Island Department of Education. The building authority would prioritize the projects and make recommendations to the state Board of Education, which would make the final decision.

Massachusetts has had a similar building authority for years, although it is financed using part of the state sales tax.

Raimondo's proposal for funding the Rhode Island program calls for the General Assembly to provide about $90 million in construction funding. The bulk of that money — $70 million — would go to projects that have already been approved. The remainder would be seed money for new projects, according to Kevin Gallagher, Raimondo's deputy chief of staff. Those would be reviewed by the building authority.

Raimondo also said she would seek $80 million in each subsequent year for the program.

However, the creation of the authority and the funding require approval by the General Assembly, whose moratorium on school construction expires in May.

We'll see if the governor can get her plan through the legislature.

For now, we rate this a promise In The Works.

In December we revisited this promise. Raimondo has followed through on promises to create a School Building Authority wtih project underway at 86 schools across the state are in progress. 

This is now a Promise Kept.

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