How much would the $64 million bond to fix all four schools cost taxpayers?
Borrowed in stages over the next six years, the bond would result in an additional $92 million in debt after interest. Property taxes are projected to increase by 3.1 percent over a 26-year period, adding an average of $104 a year to the tax bill on a $240,000 home, or $2,700 over the life of the bond.
How much has Portland spent on recent school construction?
Facility upgrades are typically made through the city’s long-term borrowing plan for major expenses, but limited budgets and competing demands have left many projects – both city and school – without adequate funding.
Last year, spending on school facilities was only $950,000 of the $15.3 million Capital Improvement Plan budget. Later, the city spent almost a $1 million fixing a walkway at Reiche Elementary School that was closed when it became a hazard to students.
The most recent school bonds were:
1995: Portland voters passed a $1.2 million bond for the middle schools, after cost overruns due to asbestos removal at all three schools and unexpected problems at Lincoln, such as leaking sewer lines, an unsafe roof and inadequate support for the third-floor stage.
1993: Portland voters approved a $14.8 million bond for the city’s three middle schools. The money was earmarked to expand capacity at the King and Lyman Moore middle schools by 350 students and make extensive renovations to the then-96-year-old Lincoln Middle School.
1980s: Portland voters approved a $20 million bond to repair Portland High School. It was the biggest school bond ever passed in Portland. The renovation was completed in 1990.
How does the bond fit into overall need for improvements systemwide?
The decision on an elementary school bond comes as a new draft capital plan found that it would cost $321 million over the next 20 years to keep all of Portland’s 17 schools and facilities up to date and fully functional. That includes improvements to the four elementary schools covered by the bond.
The bond targets health and safety fixes, while the capital plan assumes all systems – such as boilers and roofs – are replaced on a certain timetable rather than repaired and patched as they age.
What Portland schools were recently renovated or built with state funds? How does that work?
Portland used state funding to build the East End Community School in 2006 and Ocean Avenue Elementary School in 2011. Hall Elementary School is in the midst of a $29.7 million renovation using state funds, except for $1.4 million in local funding for specific upgrades.
Every few years, the Maine Department of Education seeks applications for state school construction funding, evaluates and scores project proposals based on need, and issues a priority list that is the basis of capital improvement funding decisions for the next few years. When the most recent multiyear cycle closed, Longfellow and Reiche elementary schools were close to the top of the list – Nos. 2 and 3 – but missed out on the funding.
The city can reapply for funding for any school it thinks would qualify. The state is currently accepting the new applications and will come out with a new list in about two years.
Superintendent Xavier Botana said in January that a recent review indicated the greatest need for renovation was at PATHS/Casco Bay High school – making it the most likely to get state funding. After PATHS/Casco Bay, the Portland schools in most need are Reiche, Longfellow, Portland High School and Lyseth – in that order.
– Noel K. Gallagher