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School construction bond fails, levy approved

UPDATE • Only about 3,600 votes remain to be counted
by: Christopher Onstott Portland Public Schools Bond Finance Director Tess Fields watches in disappointment Tuesday evening as early results show voters rejecting a $548 million bond proposal.

Pamplin Media Group

YES58,730
NO59,814

Portland-area voters narrowly rejected a $548 million facilities bond for Portland Public Schools Tuesday night, but approved a $19 million local operating levy.

Results in the special election show Measure 26-121, the school bond, failed 50 percent to 49 percent. Only 1,084 votes separated the two sides on the measure, with about 3,600 votes remaining to be counted, some which might be invalid.

Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts says it was not unusual that the race was close.

'It does not surprise me that the bond is fairly close one way or the other,' Hibbitts says. 'If you follow that pattern, the later votes coming in are strongly on the 'yes' side. It could win by a couple hundred. That's how close it is. I don't know if the pattern will hold up.'

The school district's local operating levy, Measure 26-122, was being approved by a wide margin, 57 percent to 42 percent. The levy renews the district's five-year local funding measure, raising about $19 million to save the equivalent of 200 teaching jobs.

The bond would have increased homeowners' property taxes by an average of $300 per year. Supporters are largely faulting the state of the economy for the bond's rejection.

'We knew it was a big ask,' Superintendent Carole Smith told the Tribune at the Leftbank Annex Tuesday night, where school board members, district staff, parents, campaign staff and volunteers and Mayor Sam Adams gathered to watch the election returns. 'We got universal support and understanding about the need. We had communication about the state of our schools. ... The struggle is the state of the economy.'

Meanwhile, the parent group called 'Learn Now, Build Later' gathered across town at the Laurelhurst home of one of their members.

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Stuart Emmons and Hannah Wilker help put together a presentation Tuesday evening before the start of the 'Next Steps' meeting to decide what to do after a Portland Public Schools bond was rejected by voters. JENNIFER HARDIN/PORTLAND TRIBUNE

The dozen or so parents had poster-size sheets of paper tacked up around the living room, with notes from brainstorming sessions about the next steps the district should take. They insist the package was simply too large, expensive, poorly crafted and ill-timed, and parents did not have enough say.

'This is not a victory dance,' parent Sarah Tinkler said when it appeared the bond was going down. 'It's just a sad day that it came to this.'


Pamplin Media Group

YES67,721
NO49,120