New, Higher Estimates for School Construction

by | Mar 7, 2023

The estimated cost of all school building proposal options has increased, according to Derek Osterman, project manager at Collier. At a School Building Committee Meeting on Tuesday morning, Osterman outlined the updated draft cost of all plans.

“We are continuing to project these numbers as best we can,” Osterman said. “They were arrived at based on a series of assumptions in terms of what costs might be based on the size of the buildings, whether it was new construction or renovation.” He went on to say that no extensive drawings have been done, so the numbers are likely to be slightly above or below the estimates he provided.

Prior to the meeting, the most expensive estimated plan was $120 million, which is now below the least pricey option. The new range of estimates for the plans is between $130 million and $150 million.

Leaning Toward Plan C

While no plan has been endorsed – and whatever is endorsed would still need to get approval from the School Committee and then the Town Council – members of the committee seemed to be in favor of option C or some variation. Some members cite the desire to have a designated PK-K facility at Meadowbrook, while others believe that Options A and B would leave East Greenwich with two crowded schools.   

“We cannot walk away from educational strategy,” said School Committee member Tim Munoz. “Moving to a 1 through 5 model, and getting some geographic balance in this town, to get a west side and east side school, that logic, that educational logic and that equity and fairness logic, to me is very strong.”

“I think people have questions,” said Town Council member Renu Englehart. “I think we can all agree that we’re leaning toward C, or some forms of C, but I think the general public has a right to know why we’re leaning that way and what the other options were.”

As previously reported, the School Building Committee will be presenting these proposals and fielding questions at various events throughout March, including two evening community sessions at Cole, one on Tuesday, March 21, and one on Thursday, March 30.

“I think it’s important that we show our work and how we deliberated,” Mark Schwager, EG Town Council president, said. 

The main reason for updating the cost estimates now is that the Town Council needs to submit legislation to the state General Assembly in the next few weeks seeking permission to put a bond referendum on the EG budget in the fall. The legislation does not need to say exactly what the town wants to bond, but it does need to give the uppermost limit, i.e, a bond referendum for no more than XX dollars. The town could ask for, say, up to $150 million in bonding authority from the General Assembly but end up asking voters for $110 million. Hence, the updated numbers. The topic will be on the Town Council’s agenda for Monday (3/13/23).

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Joe G
Joe G
March 8, 2023 9:38 am

Hasn’t even started and costs are ballooning. This represents a 25% increase. We’re being fleeced.

Catherine rodgers
Catherine rodgers
March 8, 2023 10:15 am
Reply to  Joe G

$10 million of this increase was the result of a simple math error on their part. This is not mentioned in the article.

Joe G
Joe G
March 8, 2023 12:39 pm

Now that you mention that I do recall a comment previously pointing that out.
Honestly, I’m not sure which reality is worse, neither is great!

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
March 8, 2023 2:57 pm
Reply to  Joe G


March 8, 2023 10:49 am

30 million dollar increase already… and there are no actual plans. This feel like the dollar amount is going to increase more as they start figuring out what they really want. And this does not address new housing construction thus having massively overcrowded frenchtown & Hanaford.

I want K-5 schools. That would be amazing. But what I didn’t want is for them to create these massive schools. I thought they would turn all the k-2 & 3-5 schools into smaller k-5 neighborhood schools. And that included Eldredge into that thought.

Our taxes are already very high in East Greenwich. One of the highest taxes in the state. I can’t justify adding more onto what everyone is already paying.

peter carney
peter carney
March 8, 2023 3:15 pm

On Feb 27, the Town Council shared real estate tax models that projected annual increases for the town’s needs plus projected annual increases associated with an $80M, a $100M and a $120M school building project. On March 7, the building subcommittee updated the costs of the various building proposals to no less than $130M. So the highest tax implication per EG taxpayer presented on Feb 27 at the Town Council meeting is now the lowest likely scenario just 8 days later. And here are those tax implications at a $120M project:
*Residents owning a $500K (assessed value) home would see their real estate tax bill rise from an estimated $11,022 in 2024 to an estimated $14,331 in 2035. That is an increase of more than $22,000 in total real estate tax payments between 2025 – 2035 compared to the annualized pace of $11,022 in 2024.
*Residents owning a $750K (assessed value) home would see their real estate tax bill rise from an estimated $16,510 in 2024 to an estimated $21,466 in 2035. That is an increase of more than $33,000 in total real estate tax payments between 2025 – 2035 compared to the annualized pace of $16,510 in 2024.
We need to invest in our schools. That is necessary at this point and there is value in that investment for every taxpayer. But, EGHS is not getting the attention it needs in this plan. And it would be wise to prioritize EGHS in the eventual order of projects given it is the building most used by the community (and the one that generates the most rental revenue for the district) compared to the elementary buildings targeted for construction or, unfortunately, closure.

Donna Fish
Donna Fish
March 8, 2023 7:37 pm

I’m honestly nauseous looking at these numbers. I know that schools are one of the most important infrastructures to a town. However, it has been my experience that it is the caring professionals within these buildings that are making a difference in our children’s lives, not removable walls and collaboration areas. With that said, do we have to go brand spanking new? I do not have the answers, but I also do not have the additional tax dollars this is going to cost my family. So if this goes through, my home will be on the market. Thank you EG, I now have one more thing to worry about.

March 9, 2023 11:50 am

Going to 1-5 schools, or even better yet, smaller K-5 neighborhood schools, are ideal for many reasons, people have stated.

I would love to see the cost of the plans to Eldredge. Also, what is the projected loss of income for local businesses if Eldredge is no longer a school?

What are other towns in RI paying for new schools and/or renovations?,%2420%20million%2C%20at%2020%20percent.

$108.2 million for a new high school

North Providence:
$23 million new elementary school at Centredale
$23 million new elementary school at Greystone
$23 million new elementary school at Whelan
$20 million for other high school improvements
$7 million North Providence School Department district office and accessory spaces

$330 million bond to build its first new high school

$29.4 million for a new elementary school
$8.9 million for renovations

March 10, 2023 7:35 am

I could go on about our need for new schools for pages, but I do have a serious related question:

How/Why is EG married to the concept of small neighborhood schools? Nostalgia apparently runs deep here. Anyway, has the idea of a three school model ever been discussed?

It would be much less expensive to take that land at Frenchtown and do a new school build for K-5. ONE school for all the K-5 in town. Would this be a “big” school? Yes, by EG standards, but not for the rest of country. This would be school hosting six grades – about twice the size of Cole Middle School.

All additional money would go to renovate the high school, which is downright embarrassing in its current physical condition.

Students would be bused from all over EG to one location…one pick up time.

What to do with Eldgridge/Meadowbrook/Hanaford? Whatever the town wants (I would love to see the land at Hanaford turned into a community center (like a South Kingstown or Johnston, but that’s for a different time).

The cost savings / efficiencies of this model would add up (for example, paying one principal vs. three, etc.)

I also believe there is a social benefit of all the students attending school together. In our current model the only way to interact with other students is through sports…it is theoretically possible for EG kids to not even meet until middle school now, which is ridiculous in such a small town.

I realize this is outside the box thinking, but this is not unusual in other places. Let’s not be afraid to compare ourselves to the top ranked schools/states in the region – not just Rhode Island. Just food for thought.

March 16, 2023 6:16 am
Reply to  William

I 100% agree with you! Let’s make 3 main schools in Town, one for K-5, keep/update Cole as needed (? still no a/c), and massive updates to the high school. More schools equals more administration and more overhead costs. A Town this size doesn’t need multiple elementary schools, let’s be realistic. We could all benefit from a Town resident ONLY recreational center with indoor and outdoor amenities (courts, pool, community rooms for gatherings, etc.). This State loves to have a ton of administrative positions for schools, police, fire, DPW – they could all be County based with on Department head per county and assistants for each town or area. Many many cities and towns across the country are larger in size and population than each of our 5 counties! We could save so much money and have some of the best equipment and increase “usable staffing”.

Heather Greene
Heather Greene
March 10, 2023 11:22 am

Having one school in a town or city is not common at all for the amount of kids that would be attending K-5. It is common for one elementary if you have a small population of kids, which is not the case in EG. If EG went the route that you are talking about, that would be about 1200 kids in one elementary school. This is a big school by any standards. Not just EG. I came from California and in any district that I was in, there is never just one elementary school. It’s unheard of in that state as well.

March 10, 2023 1:40 pm
Reply to  Heather Greene


I do realize 1200 students would be larger than many schools…but this is not as uncommon as you might think. Some quick research provided hundreds of examples in the small sample of states I picked.

If cost is a major factor, I am just looking for another way to solve the problems – just looking at the problem a different way.

Note: These websites do NOT have a search function by school size, so this takes some digging.

California – there are quite a few..including a massive one near Santa Clarita with over 3,200 in K-6…yikes!

Atlanta area – 25 schools more than 1100

Texas – there are dozens

Virginia – dozens

New Jersey – there are several, but the most common number appears to be in the 900-1100 range

Kimberly M Edge Ambler
Kimberly M Edge Ambler
March 14, 2023 10:00 am

2020 numbers from Colliers had us all in at 22.5M with Eldredge update costing 1.2 M. Now they are saying $130-150M and Eldredge is $25M in addition. It’s not monopoly money.


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