The campaign to renovate four elementary schools in Portland just got a huge funding boost.

Progressive Portland, a nonprofit advocacy group that formed in January, donated $20,000 to a political action committee looking to pass a $64 million bond to renovate Reiche, Lyseth, Longfellow and Presumpscot elementary schools.

The donation was made to the Protect Our Neighborhood Schools PAC on July 18 – just one day after campaigns publicly disclosed their financial activity through June 30. Up to that point, the PAC had only raised about $1,600.

The next financial reports for candidates, PACs and ballot question committees are not due until Oct. 27 – only 11 days before the Nov. 7 election.

Progressive Portland was required to form a ballot question committee and register it with the city because its donation to the PAC exceeded $5,000.

As a nonprofit, the group is not required to disclose the source of its funding, unless it was raised specifically for the school bond. The school bond is one of six priority issues listed on the group’s website.

“It was not raised exclusively for this purpose but in support of our overall mission,” said treasurer and co-founder Patricia Washburn.

Washburn would not provide a list of the group’s individual donors and would not comment about how much more money the group had in its war chest.

“We’re proud to be able to provide support for this historic effort,” she said.

According to its articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State in January, Progressive Portland is currently registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which has limits on the type of political activity it can engage in. However, Washburn said the group is operating as – and is in the process of changing that designation to – a 501(c)(4), which has fewer limits on political activity.

According to its finance report filed July 25 with the city, the Progressive Portland ballot question committee was capitalized by $21,230 from the nonprofit’s general fund.

The money appears to have been raised between April 29 and July 10, according to the original filing. However, Progressive Portland amended its report to include only the July 10 date, after a reporter questioned the City Clerk’s Office about why the group didn’t register sooner.

City Clerk Katherine Jones declined to discuss the nature or the significance of the amendment.

The funding is a much-needed shot in the arm for the PAC urging the bond’s passage.

Through June 30, Protect Our Neighborhood Schools had only raised $1,580 in cash contributions, plus two loans: $76 from Emily Figdor, the group’s principal officer, and $1,024 from Progressive Portland, which was co-founded by her husband, Steven Biel.

Protect Our Neighborhood Schools offered the Press Herald an unsolicited comment on the donation.

“They care about this issue and we appreciate their generous donation (as well as anyone else’s potential donation) and we are thrilled that there is widespread interest in the passage of the 4-school bond question,” Matthew Winch said in an email on behalf of the group. “Acceptance of anyone’s donation is for the support of this ballot question/effort period.”

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and aspiring City Council candidate Bree LaCasse, who has already raised nearly $20,000 for her own campaign, are also listed as having significant roles in the Protect our Neighborhood Schools PAC, while Strimling is also listed as a fundraiser.

Progressive Portland has also changed its primary address. It previously shared the same address as Protect Our Neighborhood Schools at 31 Cushman St., where Biel and Figdor live. But it’s now registered at 401 Cumberland Ave., which is Washburn’s home.

Also on the November ballot is a $32 million bond question that would renovate two schools, Presumpscot and Lyseth, while seeking state funding for Reiche and Longfellow.

Residents will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on either question. If both questions gain a majority of voters, the question with the most votes will be enacted.

So far, no group has filed paperwork in support of the two-school bond, which was championed by Councilors Nicholas Mavodones and Jill Duson, who is running for re-election this fall for her at-large seat. So far, her potential challengers are LaCasse and Joey Brunelle.

Similarly, no groups have filed paperwork to oppose the bonds.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

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Twitter: randybillings