Portland Public Schools appears to be winning a battle to get the money the district says it needs—$482 million to be exact—to fix up its aging schools.
The schools bond measure, Measure 26-144, is ahead 65 percent to 35 percent in early returns.The vote comes just one year after voters narrowly turned down a larger $548 million bond that saw fierce campaigning on both sides. Critics last year argued that the bond was too much money for what they said would be too few results.
This year, proponents came back with a slightly smaller, more well-defined proposition. The schools with the most needs—Franklin, Roosevelt and Grant high schools and Faubion School—will get the first round of fixes. Dozens of other schools will get seismic upgrades and/or roof repairs.
The measure still drew opponents—including the late Don McIntire, the man behind property-tax-limiting Measure 5—who hammered the district for failing to plan for fixes. Still, this year’s bond campaign was comparatively demure.
If the measure passes, Portland Public Schools district residents can expect to pay $1.10 per $1,000 of their home’s assessed value for eight years, and then 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for 12 years following that.
PPS will have to watch its spending and be careful to avoid cost overruns, says School Board member Bobbie Regan. The bond will also create an independent citizen committee to oversee the projects, as well as annual audits.
The district will go into "implementation mode," Regan says. That includes charting out what work will be done over the next eight years—much of which will have to be done in the summer, when kids aren't in school, she says. Another $1.5 million in the bond is set aside for high-school "vision" planning, Regan says.
"We need to breathe again and thank the community," she says. "We'll be implementing everything we said we would do exactly as we said we would do it, making sure it's on or under budget. We'll be fulfilling the promise we made to voters."