Proponents of a $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools in Portland touted the results of a new poll showing a majority of support among likely voters.

A press conference they held Monday comes only days before another group is expected to launch a campaign in support of a competing $32 million bond to fix two schools while seeking state funding for the other two.

Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, a political action committee formed to support the four school bond, publicly disclosed the results of a poll commissioned by the Maine Education Association. Usually, campaigns only disclose internal polling results that are beneficial to them.

Voters will be able to vote yes or no on either – or both – of the bond questions in November. A bond must be approved by a majority in order to be authorized. If both win a majority, then the one with the most yes votes is approved.

The poll, which surveyed 397 voters from Sept. 6-10, found that 55 percent of likely voters supported the four-school bond, while 35 percent supported the two-school option. The margin of error was 4.9 percent. It was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“In a nutshell, the two school is dead as a doornail,” said Kevin Brewster, vice president of the Portland Education Association, the union representing teachers. “The choice is simple: Portland voters can either fix all four schools or fix none.”

Despite claiming a “solid majority,” the four-school bond may be hovering around 50 percent, once the margin of error is factored in. And that’s after more than a year of campaigning without any opposition.

That will change on Friday, according to Dory Waxman, a former city councilor who is part of a group forming to support the two school option. Waxman did not provide any other details in a brief phone interview and did not return a follow-up call for comment.

City Councilor Jill Duson, who was one of the councilors who proposed the two school bond, said she was pleased a campaign was being mounted for her proposal, though she was not directly involved.

“I certainly think it is important for people to be hearing more information about the alternate question, which I think is a sensible way to build four schools,” Duson said.

The $64 million bond would use local tax dollars to fix four elementary schools: Reiche, Presumpscot, Longfellow and Lyseth.

The $32 million bond would used local tax dollars to fix Presumpscot and Lyseth, while preserving the opportunity to receive state funding for Reiche and Longfellow.

Among the supporters of the four-school bond are three members of Portland’s legislative delegation. Although Reiche and Longfellow have barely missed the cutoff for state funding in previous years, they urged Portland residents during Monday’s press conference to take it upon themselves to fix the schools, because of uncertainty and potential delays at the state level.

“Augusta is not the answer,” Sen. Mark Dion said. “The Legislature is not the resource.”

The $64 million would be borrowed over six years, resulting in an additional $92 million in debt after interest. The bond would increase taxes by 3.1 percent over a 26-year period. That would increase property taxes by an average of $104 a year on a $240,000 home, $2,700 over the life of the bond.

The tax impact of the $32 million bond would be roughly half that.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

filed under: