PORTLAND, Maine — The city council appears to have struck a compromise that would let residents decide between two different bond proposals to renovate aging elementary schools.

The deal announced by Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Friday afternoon would break weeks of deadlock over paying for renovations at Presumpscot, Longfellow, Reiche and Lyseth elementary schools. If approved by the full council, it would place two separate bond question on the November ballot — one for $64 million and one for $32 million.

“This gives people a chance to vote and it provides options. I think it will serve the community best in the long run,” said Mavodones, who was one of three councilors who previously blocked the $64 million bond from being put on the ballot.

The council will hold a vote on amending the existing bond motion next Wednesday and then a second vote on April 24 over sending the compromise to the ballot. Both Strimling and Mavodones appeared confident that the compromise would get the seven votes required to pass.
If approved by voters, the $64 million bond would fund renovations at all four elementary schools, while the $32 million one would pay for work at only Lyseth and Presumpscot.

Mavodones and Councilor Jill Duson previously proposed the smaller bond, saying it would give the city an opportunity to seek state funding for renovations at the other two schools.

Either ballot question would require more than 50 percent of the vote to pass. Whichever receives more votes above that threshold will be the winner, Strimling said. The larger bond will appear first on the ballot, according to the mayor.
“Getting it on the ballot was the most important part,” said Strimling, who has made pushing for renovations at all four schools a major part of this political platform.

Depending on how Portlanders vote, the announcement may mean the end of a decades long struggle to refurbish the aging elementary schools, which have not seen major renovations since they were built 55 to 65 years ago. Since the mid-1990s there have been six unsuccessful pushes to improve facilities at Portland’s older elementary schools.
The city estimates that, with interest, bonding the $64 million in stages over the next six years would result in an overall debt of about $92 million. The bond would require a 3.1 percent tax bump over its 26 year life and would add $1,128 in property taxes for each $100,000 of home valuation. For instance, the owners of a $240,000 home could expect the bond to add an average of $104 to their annual tax bill, or $2,700 over its duration.

The $32 million bond would result in an overall debt of about $45 million if paid off over 22 years, Mavodones said. It would add $61 to the annual tax bill for a $240,000 home, totaling to about $1,342 over the life of the bond, he said.

Councilor David Brenerman, who voted for the $64 million bond, said that he could support the compromise, saying it was the only way to get the issue before voters.
“We did want to get this on the ballot and and the best way to do that was through a compromise,” said Brenerman. “Otherwise we’d be sending nothing out.”