Parents at a community meeting Wednesday night said they want city and school officials in Portland to fully fund a $60 million bond to renovate four elementary schools and send it to voters, rejecting the idea the City Council may decide to initially bond for only two schools in hopes of eventually getting state funding for the other two.

“I think it’s really important to stop hemming and hawing and studying,” parent Angela Richards told District Five City Councilor David Brenerman and School Board Member Marnie Morrione. The meeting held at Casco Bay High School was called by the parent teacher organizations at several schools to discuss the status of the bond being analyzed by a committee made up of city councilors, school board members and the mayor.

The committee already has shaved about $10 million off the originally proposed $70 million bond proposal.

“Marnie and I both support renovating the four schools because we believe the renovations are badly needed and overdue,” Brenerman said. “We’re also looking at what the property tax impact will be. That’s important to all of us. We have a weighty responsibility.”

But the parents rejected the idea that the schools could wait – or that the cost of the bond to renovate Reiche, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot elementary schools was too high.

“This comes down to being an economic development issue,” said Carol Pickering, arguing that watering down the proposal means prolonging the dilapidated conditions at the two schools – and losing Portlanders to neighboring suburbs. “(The full bond) is an investment in the city, just the way all the other development is an economic issue. You’re going to lose your tax base if people leave the city.”


In financial projections updated late last week, city officials said a $60 million bond, over 20 years and at 4 percent interest, would cost about $150 a year, and a total amount of $2,428 over the life of the bond, for the owner of a $225,000 home.

“I get that we have a lot of other things too, but we’re here because we want to invest in our kids,” said parent Maryann Caroll. “I’m willing to pay $150 extra a year in property tax.”

Longfellow and Reiche were close to getting state construction funds, given to the neediest schools in the state, but the city missed out when the state recently closed the funding cycle.

Brenerman and Morrione said the last major investment in Portland schools was a $20 million bond passed in the 1980s to fix Portland High School.

“This is insane that we’ve only spent $20 million in the ’80s and we talk like that’s a big deal. That was a long time ago,” Caroll said, adding that the discussion about fixing the elementary schools has been going on for decades.

“I just can’t believe we are still talking about this. This is stuff we needed to do a long time ago. This is just really frustrating to be rehashing this over and over again,” Caroll added.


Parents also asked if there was any way to winnow the $60 million figure down any further. Morrione said the list of repairs at the schools were as low as they would go, but there was the possibility of getting smaller state funding amounts for specific repairs, such as making renovations to make a school compliant with federal disability access laws, that could lower the cost of repairs covered by a bond. She said the city already had applied for those funds and would know soon if they would get the money.

Another parent suggested that the referendum to voters could be split in two, with the $60 million bond for the necessary repairs and a second bond question on the same ballot for the “nice to haves.”

“Let the voters decide whether we want to do the more austere version, or do a fuller version on the bond,” said Kim Cook. “Give people that choice. It would be a tough vote for the councilors to take if they had to decide for all of us whether they are raising our taxes. Give us the chance to raise our own taxes.”

The Portland Ad Hoc Committee, which is determining whether to recommend to the City Council that it send voters the $60 million bond referendum, will meet Thursday at 5 p.m. in City Hall.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: