Portland School District Bond Measure (May 2011)

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A Portland School District Bond Measure was on the May 17, 2011 ballot in the Portland school district area, which is in both Clackamas and Multnomah Counties.

This measure was defeated in both counties.

  • YES 43 (39.45%)
  • NO 66 (60.55%)Defeatedd[1]


  • YES 59,860 (49.76%)
  • NO 60,438 (50.24%)Defeatedd[2]

This measure sought to create a bond in the amount of $548 million in order to help upgrade schools in the district. The district was also stressing that with the passage of this bond, the city would have been able to create around 2,500 additional jobs for residents. This bond was the largest in the history of school bonds in the state but school officials were hoping that the job potential would out weigh the costs. Average homeowners would have paid around $400 a year in additional property taxes to help pay for this bond.[3] School officials also planned to pay off this bond in a shorter amount of time, making the payments higher for residents but officials noted that by paying it quicker there would be less interest charges for residents to pay as well.[4]

The school board officially voted Monday, December 13 2010 to put this measure onto the May ballot. The measure would have completely renovated or build a new school facility for the Cleveland, Roosevelt and Jefferson high schools; East Sylvan Middle School; Laurelhurst, Marysville, Rigler and Faubion K-8 schools; and Markham Elementary School.[5] It had been noted that these schools were in desperate need for major over hauling and this was seen as the best way to give the schools a fresh start. Some teacher though noted that this bond would have made it harder for more local issues to be addressed, spring is often when local levies are renewed as well. With budgets already tight in the area, a lot of scrutiny was paid to what was being asked of residents.[6]


The campaign for this measure had received a fair amount of money to help promote this to residents. Legacy health Systems gave $5,000, Northwest Natural Gas gave $25,000 as well as Adidas and Nike both giving $10,000.[7] Construction companies, architects and trade unions had also contributed a significant amount of campaign funds in order to benefit their groups should the measure been approved. In April, a total of $650,000 had been raised in support of this measure leading to the most pro-tax arguments in the official Voter's pamphlet.[8]

Contributions in support of this measure were up to $1.1 million right up to the election date, the campaign had posted adds for paid canvassers to help get people out to vote in favor of this measure. The add promised $500 for five days work, helping to promote this bond and get residents to vote. The main campaign group for this measure stated that volunteer parents were stretched thin so the thought to hire a few people to help out seems like the right move.[9]

Media Endorsements

The Portland Tribune had noted its support for this measure, along with the Portland levy increase measure, stating that delaying the projects would not help students and although there would be an increased tax burden for residents the students need the upgrades and new facilities as soon as possible. Without updated technology the schools cannot be competitive and students are at a disadvantage after they leave. Delaying the bond would just make it more costly in the future.[10]

The Portland Mercury had also given its support behind this measure along with the Portland levy noting that although the tax increase was the largest in the district, the need was there and residents needed to support school and the children that attend them. Also noting that the defeat of this will mean more school closures which will not benefit the district. This was seen as a necessary investment into the district's future.[11]


There were five people who paid to run arguments against the bond measure in the official Voter's pamphlet; two members of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon and the chairman of the local Republican party. Those against the measure noted the increase in taxes which will be a results of the bond were not good for those struggling with money.[8]

Filed complaint

A group of residents had filed a complaint with the State, noting that they believed that school officials had crossed the line when issuing information about the proposed measure. School officials are allowed to distribute information about the measure but it was supposed to be neutral, not promoting one side or the other. Those who filed the complaint stated that official school information was trying to persuade voters to vote in favor by bolding certain items and omitting costs to taxpayers. The state will not decide on the issue though until after the election is held.[12]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Shall PPS update, rebuild, increase safety at public schools; retire debt; issue $548 million in general obligation bonds, audit spending? If the bonds are approved, they will be payable from taxes on property or property ownership that are not subject to the limits of sections 11 and 11b, Article XI of the Oregon Constitution.[13][14]

Additional reading