Barrington residents pass vote on tax hike to replace aging middle school

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — While middle school students in Barrington students spent Thursday night getting ready to return to the classroom after some unexpected time off, many adults gathered to discuss the future of the run-down school.

More than 900 voters filled the high school’s auditorium to hear the town’s proposal to tear down the existing middle school and build another on the current athletic fields. The proposal passed 590 to 349.

The middle school was closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to several leaks on the second floor.

“It’s old, it’s tired, and it needs to be replaced,” said Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha.

Superintendent Michael Messore said the leaks are another example that the building has reached its service life.

“We’ve invested quite a bit of money over the years into that building,” he explained. “There’s just a need for a replacement.”

The roof and the plumbing are outdated and there is no sprinkler system in place, according to Cunha.

A new building proposal in the works. At Thursday’s financial town meeting, a vote will be held to allow the town to exceed its 4 percent tax cap in order to pay for its construction.

Cunha said the new school building would cost $3.1 million annually for the next 25 years. This means a resident in a home valued at $365,000 would be paying an extra $600 in taxes per year.

“I expect there to be some discussion about the pros and cons of this and whether the community should do it or not,” Cunha added before the meeting began.

Anyone who wished to speak was allowed three minutes, provoking the meeting to go on for hours.

Supporters at the meeting declared it would be an investment in the future of education for the children.

Critics questioned the cost of the renovations and how town officials expected seniors on fixed incomes to pay higher taxes.