Report shows Portland Public Schools is $190 million over budget for work within 2017 bond

(KATU Photo)

Portland Public Schools is gravely over budget for work within the 2017 bond by nearly $200 million.

In 2017, voters approved a Portland Public Schools bond for $790 million to cover major improvements and modernizations to schools in the district.

Now, the bond accountability committee, or BAC, says PPS is projected to be $190 million over budget.

"One of the things that had to be put aside for a while was building maintenance and that’s coming back to haunt us," Rita Moore, Portland Public Schools board chair, said.

According to a recent report from the BAC, the $190 million worth of unfunded expenses are coming from the current projections for Madison, Lincoln, Kellogg and Benson schools.

Specifically, the BAC says the school board’s budget discipline was abandoned when discussing renovation for Madison High School.

The BAC says the board approved a master plan for the high school that “likely exceeds the bond budget by well over 35 percent.”

The BAC adds that the current estimates for the work on Lincoln and Benson Polytechnic high schools “surpass their bond budgets by a similar magnitude.”

The board, though, says it's likely the $790 million estimate was optimistic even before it went to the voters, due in part to rising construction costs.

"I don’t think anybody anticipated that the unprecedented increase in construction would continue," Moore said.

The big question the BAC is now asking is how is it that Franklin High School could be modernized for $113 million and the projections for Lincoln and Madison are so high?

Moore says the answer to that is construction prices. Franklin's modernization started several years ago when construction prices were substantially lower.

According to the report, Madison High School upgrades are projected to cost between $195 million and $200 million.

The school board says for now it is still in the planning process and can make adjustments. It also says this is a long term-project and construction prices could go down.

"We are going to do what we can to keep costs down while delivering what we promised to students and voters for the best possible schools we can within our budget," Moore said.

The school board will meet Tuesday night to discuss budget and plans.

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