Monday, May 2, 2011

Why to say no to the Portland Public School construction bond

By now, you've been inundated by television ads and direct mail pleading for your to repair our crumbling out-of-date schools that put Portland's kids at risk with leaks, antiquated boilers, overloaded electrical systems and asbestos. The Portland School Bond promises financial accountability.

Here are the reasons to say no.

The bond measure is bloated with unnecessary repairs.

Nearly 1/3 of the bond ($178 million) is NOT necessary repairs, but added construction to ensure that every school will get something. Why?

A research firm which was paid over $20,000 by the school board said that the bond would be more likely to pass if every school got something, whether it needed it or not.

The publicized costs are purposely underestimated

From PPS, “The estimated bond rate for six years is approximately $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It then drops to an estimated 15 cents per $1,000 for no more than 20 additional years.” The median assessed home value in the school district is $147,480, or $300 times 6, plus $22.12 times 20 years, or almost $2,250.

PPS also neglected to include the $75.5 million cost of interest payments and the $2 million bond insurance expenses.   So, it’s really costing average; property taxpayer about 2,500. 

And that $75.5 million interest cost is very likely understated.  Most of the financing, in their own words would be in short-term bonds that mature in one, two or three years.  Interest rates are rising, so when the short term financing matures, they will be refinanced at a higher rate. 

Is it really only $300 for the average taxpayer? 

No.  When they said “average,” they meant median home price, which means half of all Portland homeowners will be paying more.  Look here to input your street address, and find your Assessed Value, directly under your Market Value. If it is more than $147,480, you’ll be paying more than $2,500 for this bond.

According to Willamette Week the best reasons to vote no are: 

”It’s expensive . ., the timing sucks, the plan is to ask voters to renew the construction bond every six years for the next three decades . ., PPS wants to rebuild two schools whose populations have fallen so dramatically that they were at risk for closure last year . ., (and) PPS is not allocating our very scarce resources to protect and educate . . at a time of huge budgetary crisis.”

It will hurt older Portland citizens.

A Portland professor with two children in the Portland Public School system, Dr. Eric Fruits, recently presented findings to the PPS Board based on census data and Journal of Urban Economics.
 He estimates that “approximately 4,500 people age 50 and older may be driven out of Portland if voters approve the higher property taxes”

Who is supporting this bond issue?

The vast majority of financial support for this bill is from the construction industry, not concerned parents, teachers or people who “heart” Portland schools.

This is a needlessly expensive, misrepresented, badly financed, expensive bond with terrible timing, and will be only the first of many to come over the next thirty years. It will drive older citizens out of the school district and benefit the construction industry far more than it will improve local education.

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