On May 8th, voters living in the Portland Public School District will be asked to vote on a bond extension proposal. The current bond that is in place will be ending in six years, and the bond proposal on the ballot will be an extension to the end of the current bond cycle.
According to Portland Public School Superintendent, Will Heath, if the bond passes, “Homeowners will pay 7.35 mills, same as today. It would be a zero mill increase.”
A Facebook page called “Portland Kids Count” has been started to inform voters on the particulars of the bond proposal. According to the page, “Portland Kids Count is a group of Citizens and Parents dedicated to helping the passage of the upcoming Portland Public School Bond extension on May 8th.”
The Portland Public Schools has a created an informational website that can be found at https://sites.google.com/portlandk12.org/2018-bond/home. The site provides multiple charts showing the updates and improvements that would be financed by the bond, as well as the facilities assessment conducted by Kingscott and Clark Construction Company, a technology assessment that was conducted by Commtech Design, and the official ballot language.
Heath said that he and the school board have no desire to raise taxes in this process.
The process that lead up to the bond making it onto the ballot started back in July of 2016 when Heath became the district superintendent. Heath conducted his own facility assessment and generated a list of what needed to be replaced and/or repaired. He said that he quickly saw that, “Two of the priorities were roofs, most of which are out of warranty, and parking lots.”
Heath then took his assessment to the board of education for guidance on how to proceed. Discussion took place over the options of a sinking fund, which would involve raising taxes, or bonds.
Heath says that he and board agreed that the best option was a zero mill increase with the proposed bond.
At that point, the architecture firm Kingscott was brought in for detailed facility assessment. The firm audited all district owned facilities and provided a comprehensive assessment of the district’s needs. This assessment can be found at the website listed earlier in this article. Kingscott identified priority needs as well as suggestions.
Next, Heath formed a committee, which included former and current staff, citizens, business owners, parents and students. The committee met multiple times to decide what it believed should be included in bond. Heath said the, “initial list was $47 million, but it was brought down to $25 million.”
The committee then presented their suggestion to the board. The result is the package that voters will be deciding on May 8th.
If the proposal passes, the district will be able to sell bonds in three series.
2018 – Series 1 - $11,825,000
2020 – Series 2 - $8,770,000
2022 – Series 3 - $4,370,000
Total - $24,965,000
The strategic timing would allow the district to better control interest costs.
Most district owned building have seen renovation in their lifetime, but age and normal wear and tear necessitate routine upgrades in several areas. As for the ages and last major renovations to district buildings:
Oakwood Elementary – Year built 1952. Renovation in 1975 and 2002
Westwood Elementary – Year built 1975. Renovation in 2002
Middle School - Year built 1962. Renovation in 1990 and 2002
High School - Year built 1989. Renovation 2002
Adult Education Building – Year built 2002. No renovations since construction.
Transportation Building - Purchased in 1996. Renovation in 2002.
All school buildings would see new secure entry vestibules, repaved parking lots and drives, new roofs, many updated windows and doors, updated bathrooms and lighting fixtures, and select carpet and flooring upgrades.
Pick up and drop off configurations will be significantly updated at the middle school, Oakwood and Westwood. New configurations should improve traffic flow and student safety. On this topic, Heath said, “Parent pick up and drop off will never be perfect. Safety is priority over speed.”
While the graphics provide a more detailed list of improvements, some of the highlights for each building are:
Security improvements were reviewed with the districts security and safety vendor, Critical Incident Management or CIM. CIM provided input on secure entry vestibules in all buildings to allow improved security of entrances.
The bond would also allow for additions on to the current camera systems with more cameras, as well as a new public-address system that could allow for central administration staff to broadcast emergency announcements and lockdown for all buildings at one time.
As for a breakdown of costs, district calculations are that of the total $24,965,000, 20% would go to cyclical interior upgrades, 16.3% to energy and cyclical building systems, 15.8% to parking lots and drives, 15.4% to instructional technology/infrastructure, 6.2% to athletic improvements, 3.5% to security improvements, and the remaining 22.8% to other improvements, bond costs, contingencies and fees.
If the bond proposal passes on May 8th, money would not be available until mid to late summer. While some of the technology purchases would begin immediately, the summer of 2019 would be the soonest major projects would start.
In order to vote in the May 8th election, voters must be registered within the Portland Public Schools no later than April 9th.
Superintendent Heath has offered to participate in an open question and answer period with Portland Beacon readers. If you have any question that you would like to ask Mr. Heath, please email it to email@example.com no later than Friday, March 16th. Answers from Mr. Heath would be posted in a follow up piece to this article soon after.
Heath said he wants, “informed voters.” He also welcomes residents to call or email him directly with any questions. You may reach him at 517-647-4161 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that some of the presentation boards in this article may have lost some resolution when being copied into this article. For the highest quality view, please click on the image to be directed to it original internet location, or refer to the original images at https://sites.google.com/portlandk12.org/2018-bond/home.
UPDATE 3/11/18: In the original version of this story, it was suggested that the website https://sites.google.com/portlandk12.org/2018-bond/home was operated by the group "Portland Kids Count." This informational site is actually operated by Portland Public Schools.