PORTLAND, Oregon — Portland Public Schools is at it again. Asking voters to approve another bond measure to upgrade schools.
Since 2012, voters have approved over a billion dollars in bonds. Money that was spent on upgrading and rebuilding dozens of schools. Since the passing of the 2012 bond, the district has improved 51 schools. In addition, Franklin and Roosevelt High Schools have been modernized and Faubion has been completely rebuilt. Grant High School re-opened in the fall of 2019 after a remodel.
Under the 2017 bond, money was allocated to rebuild Kellogg Middle School, a school that has been closed for a decade. Madison High School has been gutted and construction is well underway and the mayor and school board recently broke ground on a new Lincoln High School.
The $790 million bond was supposed to cover Benson High School as well, but an outside audit found that the district had underestimated their construction costs.
The district was millions of dollars short.
"Benson was in the 2017 bond and there is a shortfall and so first thing on the list is making sure we have enough funding to finish that project because it is something we promised the voters we would do," said Andrew Scott, a Portland School Board member.
He says he will work to make sure what happened in 2017, doesn't happen this time around.
"Going forward from here, we've put a lot of safeguards in place. Our bond accountability committee is going to be looking at all these. We're bringing in more outside expertise to make sure we don't underestimate the cost going forward and the board's going to be asking a lot of those hard questions as well."
As far as how much the 2020 bond will ask for is unknown or what projects it will be slated for.
"The original plan starting back in 2012 was to do all 9 high schools. The last 3 remaining are Cleveland, Jefferson and Wilson."
Scott says his staff will spend the next couple weeks and months putting together that information so it can be finalized by June, the deadline to make it on the November ballot.
"What I can tell you is that our goal as a board is to keep the tax rate at the current level. Voters were really generous in 2012 and 2017 and in passing previous bonds. Those bonds are going to be rolling off over the next 5-10 years. So our goal is to keep the tax rate at the same level." Scott said.
Also on the list are health and safety upgrades throughout the district.
"That's something that parents are really concerned about, seismic safety in the buildings. Continue to make sure the water is lead-free, etc. We'll be looking at all those health and safety issues as well."
Election day in 2020 is November 3rd.