A $70 million bond to improve four elementary schools in Portland is not likely to appear on the ballot this November, as many parents and some elected officials had hoped. That’s because the City Council on Wednesday is slated to vote on a recommendation by Mayor Ethan Strimling to have the bond proposal reviewed by an ad hoc committee, rather than sending it the council’s Finance Committee. The move all but guarantees a longer review process, Strimling conceded.

“This is a big deal. This is a very important project for the entire city,” Strimling said in an interview Friday. “We want to get this right and that’s much more important than doing it fast.”

The council would have to vote on a bond proposal by Sept. 7 for it to appear on the November ballot, said Jessica Grondin, the city’s communication director.

A group of parents and community members called Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, along with several councilors, have been pushing for a November bond, highlighting the fact that the four elementary schools have not been updated in 40-50 years and do not comply with building or fire codes. Emily Figdor, the spokeswoman for the neighborhood group, could not be reached Friday.

Protect Our Neighborhood Schools member Jeanne Swanton said the group would like to see a bond proposal as soon as possible, but emphasized the importance of having council and community buy-in.

“A good process is critical to being able to build enough support on the council to pass a bond to fully renovate all four schools,” she said. “We would like the proposal to advance as quickly as possible; however, we feel it will fail if all are not invested.”

The School Board voted 6-2 on June 21 to recommend the $70.6 million bond package to the council. Board members chose that proposal over a last-minute suggestion to reduce the request to $40.3 million – a figure board member Sarah Thompson believed would be more palatable for the council. The lower figure would have made fewer improvements to Lyseth and Presumpscot elementary schools.

School Board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione said she hopes the council refers the bond to the committee. Although that likely means it would not appear on the November ballot, as she originally hoped, it would allow the board members to work with councilors to address unanswered questions, including how the bond would affect the city’s property tax rate, she said.

“I just really, really don’t want to see us stall again. I want to maintain the momentum,” said Morrione, who noted that elementary school upgrades have been a perennial issue in her eight-year tenure. “I remain very hopeful. I don’t agree that it’s stalling in anyway. It’s finding a good way to move us forward in areas we’ve needed city help with.”

The bond would finance upgrades, recommended in the “Buildings for Our Future” study by the Oak Point Associates architecture and engineering firm, at four elementary schools:

n Lyseth: ($20.2 million, 500 students) Add second floor, improve driveway and parking lot, steam line upgrades, stormwater repairs.

n Reiche: ($17.9 million, 400 students) Reconfigure interior space, replace roof, rebuild library and stairs.

n Longfellow: ($16.4 million, 340 students) Add elevator to make second floor compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, replace roof, remove asbestos, update electric, replace windows, repoint masonry.

n Presumpscot: ($16.1 million, 300 students) Add second floor, improve parking lot, repair athletic field.

Strimling said he has not yet selected the members of the ad hoc committee, but suggested that City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, the council’s finance chairman, would likely lead the group. The resolution establishing the committee states that the bond request needs to be reviewed within the context of the city budget and “other longterm city and school capital needs, and other bond obligations,” as well as the proposed improvements.

After the committee is selected, the council will hold a workshop on the proposed bond. Any changes suggested by the committee would be sent back to the school board for approval. Once the bond total and scope of work is complete, it would be referred to the council’s Finance Committee before being sent to the council.

Although there is no firm deadline for the committee to complete its work, Strimling said he hopes it will only take months, not years.

“We need to make sure all of our kids are in phenomenal facilities, and right now they are not,” he said.