Portland council stalls on school vote

Portland City Hall meets on school funding budget.

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) –

The fate of the proposal to renovate Portland elementary schools at a cost of $64 million is still in the hands of city councilors.

The city is trying to renovate four elementary schools – part of a discussion that began decades ago.

After an over seven hour meeting Monday night, city leaders failed to agree on a plan to send to voters.

The proposal needs seven “yes” votes but only got six.

Three proposals were considered at the meeting including the $64 million dollar package approved by a special ad-hoc committee of councilors and school board members tasked with crafting a proposal.

The other two proposals would have completed renovations more slowly at a different cost, one at $24 million and the other at a price around $32 million.

Hundreds of people attended the meeting filling the council chamber balcony and an overflow room.

More than 50 parents took time to urge councilors to approve the $64 million plan.

Many were frustrated when an hours-long wait and months-long fight yielded no definitive result.

“There’s been a lot of progress to get to this point and to have one vote not get us forward with the four-school bond is very frustrating,” said Aura Russell-Bedder, a parent with a student at the Presumpscot School.

Portland Mayor, Ethan Strimling, says he’s determined to get one more councilor on his side before the next meeting.

“Every day I will work to fight to get that seventh vote,” he said. “I’ll be talking to my colleagues, my door’s open.”

Some councilors say costs are a concern for residents who don’t want their taxes raised.

They think preventing the city from taking a chance on getting state money to cover some of the school fixes is a mistake.

“The major stumbling block for me is the moment we’ve approved that number, we would no longer be eligible for state funding,” said city councilor, Jill Duson, one of the “no” votes.

If the $64 million plan is approved it will be decided on by voters at a date to be determined.

A group of parents has already said if the $64 million school plan did not pass Monday, they would protest at City Hall on Tuesday.

The council will take up the school bond issue again at a meeting next week, on March 27th

Copyright 2017 WCSH


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