$790 million Portland Public Schools bond could spell years of work for the trades


Portland’s Franklin High School, pictured above as it looked in July 2016, is on track to reopen this September after a two-year, $113 million remodel — funded by the first of three planned school modernization bonds.

By Don McIntosh

Portland Public Schools Board voted unanimously Feb. 28 to move forward with the largest construction bond request in Oregon history. If approved by voters May 16, the $790 million measure would fund system-wide upgrades for Oregon’s biggest school district — and years of work for hundreds of local building trades workers.

Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council is an early endorser of the bond measure, and other labor organizations are likely to follow. Because the work would pay prevailing wages and benefits, union-signatory contractors would be likely to outcompete nonunion contractors and secure much of the work. And the projects are broad in scope, says Building Trades Executive Secretary-Treasurer Willy Myers —touching nearly every craft.

The bond proposal includes the demolition and new construction of Lincoln High School and Kellogg Middle School, and comprehensive retrofits of Benson and Madison high schools. It also includes health and safety improvements at every school in the district, including repairing or replacing leaking or deteriorating school roofs; replacing old pipes and fixtures to reduce lead and improve water quality; removing or encapsulating exposed lead paint and asbestos; improving building foundations and ventilation to decrease radon exposure; upgrading fire alarm and sprinkler systems; and improving accessibility for people with disabilities. Finally, the bond would pay to begin planning for the next bond proposal, which would include modernization of Cleveland, Jefferson and Wilson high schools.

The May 16 bond measure is actually phase two in a three-phase plan to fully modernize school sites across the district. District buildings are on average 77 years old, and many are over 100 years old. In 2012, voters approved the first in the series: a $482 million bond issue that funded the extensive renovation of Franklin, Grant and Roosevelt high schools and Faubion PreK-8 school, plus repairs and upgrades at 52 schools. At its peak in the summer of 2016, about 600 workers were employed on projects funded by that bond.

The new bond would cost property owners $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed value for the first four years, declining thereafter. The owner of a home assessed at $240,000 would pay $336 a year.

A poll undertaken by the district showed public support for the bond at 60 percent. But Jeremy Wright, a former union organizer who is leading the campaign to pass the bond, says every vote will count, and the support of union members, who tend to vote in higher numbers, is particularly important.

Ballots will be mailed out April 26 and will be due back May 16.


Below are some prevailing wage rates for journeymen working in Multnomah County.

Bricklayer $34.79 $20.10
Carpenter $35.67 $15.67
Cement Mason $31.00 $18.87
Electrician $40.20 $22.30
Elevator Constructor $51.03 $37.37
Glazier $34.65 $19.00
Insulator $45.42 $20.77
Ironworker $36.71 $24.16
Laborer $27.72 $13.82
Painter $22.52 $10.38
Plumber $42.83 $27.02
Roofer $28.53 $17.42
Sheet Metal Worker $38.11 $19.82
Sprinklerfitter $36.06 $21.30

 HELP WANTED:  To volunteer, donate, request a lawn sign or get more information, visit HealthySchoolsPDX.com. And be sure to “like” the bond campaign at Facebook.com/healthyschoolspdx


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