At a board committee meeting Thursday, Portland Public Schools staff recommended district leaders plan for a bond in November 2021 instead of the originally planned 2020 time frame.

Staff presented draft schedules for 2020 and 2021 as well as a list of considerations, including community engagement. District staff say a thorough plan will take time and resources – and placing the bond on the 2021 ballot will give staff more time to get feedback.

“To put out a thoughtful bond package you’re going to want to take time and be thoughtful and engage communities,” said PPS Chief Operating Officer Dan Jung.

There were also concerns raised about the capacity of district staff to start a bond campaign amid several other efforts, including a strategic plan, Student Success Act implementation, and facilities plans.

“We’ll have to drop something if we want to do this in 2020,” Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said.

Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero outside of Franklin High School on Aug. 9, 2019.

Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero outside of Franklin High School on Aug. 9, 2019.

Elizabeth Miller/OPB

Other considerations include voter competition in 2020 with a potential transportation bond from Metro against the dynamics around asking for a bond during an “off” election a year later.

Staff presented and discussed the recommendation with the school board’s School Improvement Bond Committee, which includes Amy Kohnstamm, Scott Bailey and Andrew Scott, who chairs the committee.

Board members Rita Moore and Julia Brim-Edwards were also present.

The staff also suggested placing “distance” between the 2019 levy funding teachers and a bond would be a positive reason to move the bond to 2021. Voters overwhelmingly approved the levy earlier this week.

Staff will also take into consideration the projected bond rate for outstanding bonds. In 2020, the projected rate is $2.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value. By 2021, it would be $1.07.

According to staff, a 2021 bond would also give the district time to have a more accurate cost estimate for finishing the Benson High School modernization project. The final contract amount for Benson isn’t expected until Summer 2021. Due to cost overruns from the 2017 bond, an additional bond is needed to support that project fully, even though Benson was promised with 2017 bond funds. The PPS website for Benson still says the Board of Education expects to start a bond campaign in 2020.

Going forward, board members and staff discussed a poll to measure community support for a bond, and further discussions about the pros and cons of one year over the other.

Board members expressed concern about waiting. According to the district, the school board will decide whether to wait for 2021 or continue with the 2020 plan. There is no timeline on when that decision would be made. 

But Moore – and others agreed – that the decision is an urgent one.

“The sooner we can establish that date, the better it will be for everyone,” Moore said.