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2020 Portland Public Schools bond will extend tax rate to rebuild high school, improve other sites

PMG FILE PHOTO - Students on the first day of school in 2019 at Jefferson High School; voters on Tuesday decided the fate of a Portland Public Schools bond measure that would address, among other sites, Jefferson High.

The largest school improvement bond in Portland's history was passing by a large margin as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. Early election results in Multnomah County show the measure passing by 75% as of 8 p.m. By 9:45 p.m., that percentage barely moved, still keeping the number at 75%. In Washington County, which includes a small portion of Portland students, the measure had 71% of the vote.

A source close to the bond campaign said early polling projected the measure would pass easily, and the initial results would probably be enough to call the race.

The bond measure would not increase the current property tax rate of $250 per $100,000 of assessed value, but would continue the tax to raise an estimated $1.2 billion for school improvements and renovations.

The bond measure promises to rebuild Jefferson High School and create a Center for Black Student Excellence, while replacing textbooks and technology equipment across the district. The extra tax revenue would also help fund the redesign of Wilson and Cleveland high schools, as well as the design for an expansion of Roosevelt High School and the completion of Benson High.

PPS GRAPHIC - A bond expenditure table shows which projects would be funded with the 2020 bond.The 2020 bond also plans to replace HVAC systems and roofs at school sites around the district, but more importantly, Portland Public Schools says it will also use the extra money toward implementing the first phase of an accessibility plan that would make the first floor of every school in the district accessible to students with disabilities. Currently, 78% of the campuses in PPS are not fully accessible, according to the campaign Yes for Portland Schools.

"Tonight is a great night for our students, our families, and our city," said Julia Brim-Edwards, PPS board member and chair of the 2020 bond campaign "Thank you Portland voters! In the midst of a pandemic, challenging economic times, and a national reckoning with racial injustice, you have overwhelmingly entrusted us to continue moving forward with rebuilding our crumbling, outdated schools, many of them 80-100 years old. Portlanders wanted a bold vision and investments in all our schools, and the PPS School Board and community responded with a package that will make historic investments in equity and accessibility, including the rebuild of Jefferson High School in the heart of Albina. These are investments that will pay dividends for generations of students."

Despite its support, the district still has hurdles-namely criticism over previous bond projects that in 2018, were reported as $190 million over budget.

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