On April 24th the Portland City Council will likely approve my proposal to let the voters decide how we will finance the much-needed renovations to four elementary schools. Two options will be placed on the November ballot and the passage of either will raise the $64 million needed to complete the 8-year construction project.
The first option on the ballot will raise the full $64 million through the sale of city bonds. The second option will raise $32 million in city bonds and seek $32 million in state funds. If less than $32 million in state funds are awarded, a second city bond will be sent to the voters for any remaining balance. I’ve included more information about the voting and bonding processes below.
I applaud my colleagues for joining me in getting back to doing what we do best – coming together and finding a path forward that puts the residents of Portland first. When we invest in our children and our schools, we are investing in a stronger city and a brighter future for all of us.
We are all agreed on what needs to be done, how much we need to invest, and the construction timeline to which we must adhere. Now voters will get to choose how to achieve our shared goal. My thanks to all the parents, students, and community advocates who have worked so hard to get us to this exciting point!
PS. Below is some additional information about the voting and bonding process, as well as an exciting update from state funding experts:
How the voting will work:
Voters will be asked ‘yes or no’ on each of the bond questions. Voters will not be forced to choose one option over the other – there is no vote-splitting scenario. Supporting one does not prevent you from also supporting the other. You can vote ‘yes’ on any option you love or can live with. If a majority of voters say ‘yes’ to both bonds, then the one receiving the highest number of votes will be our path forward.
Bond sales and interest costs:
Under each scenario, the school projects will be sequenced (not under construction at the same time) and the bonds will be sold when each project is ready to go. The interest rate will be set per market conditions at the time the bonds are offered for sale. The bonds are not sold all at one time at a fixed rate.
Order of construction:
The order of construction is decided by the Portland School Board. They are currently considering Presumpscot or Lyseth for the first school. If voters choose the $32 million city bond to start, there would be more than enough resources to get things rolling at the first school while giving city staff the opportunity to pursue another $32 million in state funding for whichever projects have the best shot at being funded. Right now the experts are telling us that Reiche and Longfellow have the best chance of drawing down state funds (see update from Finance Director O’Connell, below), but the $32+$32 approach gives us maximum flexibility. Whichever approach the voters choose, we’ll get all four schools completed in the 8-year timeframe.
Email excerpt from City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell to Portland City Councilors, after his latest check-in with state funding consultants:
"…wanted to pass along some additional facts from Lavallee Brensinger, the architects who performed our Facilities Assessment along with Sebago Technics and who are currently assisting with our applications for State aid. I've had several conversations with them over the past several weeks and they've repeatedly confirmed (including some details in the email below) that they believe Reiche and Longfellow will be funded in the next cycle. The words they used when I recently spoke to them was that Reiche would "shoot up" the list. They noted that although PATHS/CBHS is certainly a wild card, it does not represent our best shot at State aid (Reiche has the best chance, followed by Longfellow). Finally, they mentioned that our 2010-2011 applications were somewhat poorly done, with lots of key details and information omitted. They have noted that ALL of our applications should have a better chance of funding during the upcoming cycle as they'll be complete and thorough."