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The Portland (Ore.) school board placed a $790 million bond issue on the ballot in 2017, but estimated costs now have ballooned to $980 million.

Portland (Ore.) school district underestimates cost of bond projects by $190 million

Voters approved $790 million request last year, but school officials may have intentionally underestimated costs to make approval more likely.

The $790 million school bond issue approved in 2017 by Portland, Ore., voters is at least $190 million short of what's needed to complete construction.

KOIN 6 News reports that the Portland school board moved forward with the $790 million request last year even after a management consultant warned district officials that they were underestimating the cost of the construction projects.

Voters approved funds to renovate Benson Tech and Madison High Schools and rebuild Lincoln High School and Kellogg Middle School as well as make districtwide safety upgrades. The revised cost of those projects is $980 million.

CBRE Heery Managing Director Ken Fisher warned school officials in a January 2017 email—months before the bond passed—that the cost estimates were "too lean." He recommended a "follow on discussion" with the outside cost estimator to go over the bond proposal estimates.

The Portland Tribune reports that the architecture firm Rider Levett Bucknall estimated before the proposal went before voters that the bond projects would cost at least $894.7 million and as much as $1.06 billion.

Records obtained by KOIN 6 show that the district paid a polling firm $45,000 to conduct research on a bond proposal. The firm found that a majority of voters would support either a $750 million and an $850 million bond, but the smaller request would attract slightly more support.

"[T]he $750 million price tag seems much more winnable and would be our initial recommendation for moving forward," Anzalone Liszt Grove associate Pia Nargundkar wrote in January 2017. 



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