Historic $790 million Portland school bond passes; here's what it will do

Voters pass $790 million PPS bond measure

PORTLAND, Ore. – On May 16, Portland voters chose to fund the biggest school bond in the state's history.

The $790 million school bond passed with 66 percent of the vote during Tuesday's special election.

Results: May special election

The bond will renovate and rebuild four schools: Lincoln High School, Madison High School, Benson High School, and Kellogg Middle School. It will also fund health and safety upgrades district-wide, including fixing many of the district's lead paint and water issues, asbestos and radon problems, replacing roofs, and adding seismic upgrades. 

It's not the first time Portland voters funded a massive bond for schools. Five years ago, voters approved what was then a record $482 million bond to renovate and rebuild four schools – Roosevelt High School, Franklin High School, Grant High School and Faubion K-8 – and repair dozens of other schools.  

The $790 million bond won’t come cheap to homeowners. It will cost $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed home value for the first four years and less after that, with an average of $0.68 per $1,000 over 30 years. That shakes out to $280 for each of the first four years for a homeowner with a home tax-assessed at $200,000, and an average of $136 annually over 30 years.

Homeowners are still paying back the 2012 bond, with the last payment posting in 2032. The 2012 bond cost $1.10 per $1,000 for the first eight years and 30 cents per $1,000 for the next 12 years (an average of $124 a year overall for a home tax-assessed at $200,000).

What the bond will do

Portland schools are very old – 77 years on average – and with that comes a host of health and safety issues. Last year, testing showed nearly all Portland schools had high lead levels in the water from sinks, spigots or drinking fountains. Many schools are also hotbeds for peeling lead paint, radon and asbestos. Portland Public Schools says $150 million of the bond money will go toward immediately addressing those issues district-wide. That portion will also fund some roof replacements, upgrade security, fix fire systems and improve ADA access.

The $150 million breaks down as follows:

  • Water quality (lead in drinking water): $28,492,000 to be spent in up to 90 schools
  • Lead-based paint: $16,623,936 to be spent in up to 88 schools.
  • Asbestos abatement: $12,000,000 for up to 48 schools
  • Radon: $1,126,125 for up to 90 schools
  • Fire alarm and/or sprinkler systems: $25,849,990 for up to 16 schools
  • Roofs:  $50,907,949 for up to 14 schools
  • Accessibility/ADA : $10,000,000 for up to 9 schools
  • Security Systems: $5,000,000 for up to 11 schools

The remaining $640 million will rebuild and renovate Benson, Madison and Lincoln high schools, and Kellogg middle school. Benson and Kellogg are in disrepair, according to school officials. Lincoln and Madison aren't in quite as bad shape but they have structural issues and are overcrowded, especially Lincoln High School. PPS spokesman Dave Northfield said generally, it takes about two years to complete a high school renovation. 

PPS is ironing out the timeline for the bond work, but Northfield said students in Lincoln and Madison will be moved for two years, while students at Benson will remain in the building as it is renovated in phases. No students currently attend Kellogg Middle School. 

Portland students lobbied for the bond, conducting a sit-in at a school board meeting and a school walk-out last September.

Read more: Ahead of election, Lincoln students show us the problems at their school

The school bond also had support from every major local newspaper and many public officials, including the mayor. There was no organized opposition to the bond but some parents spoke out against the bond, due to the high cost and recent administrative problems at the district.

What the 2012 bond is doing

The district has made quick work of the 2012 bond money, with Roosevelt High School, Franklin High School and Faubion K-8 renovations expected to finish in August 2017. Construction starts on Grant High School in June 2017, and that project should be done by August 2019.

Most of the schools slated to received safety upgrades from the 2012 bond have already, but that work is continuing at some more schools this summer.

KGW’s Fly8 drone flew over the new Franklin High School in early May.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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