I would like to see all three options offered to Portland voters. If this happens, voters will have a chance to vote YES or NO on each of the three bonds.
Here's a brief explanation the three proposals, why the Council is considering sending more than one bond proposal to voters, and how the voting will work if that happens.
- a $24 million option, which would renovate Lyseth Elementary and addresses immediate needs at seven other schools;
- a $32 million option, which would renovate Lyseth and Presumpscot; and
- a $64 million option, which would renovate Lyseth, Presumpscot, Longfellow, and Reiche.
You can see an overview of each of the bond proposals on the agenda for the April 24th council meeting. (The descriptions of the bonds begin on page 14, under the "Unfinished Business" heading.)
While the City Council can currently make the decision to borrow amounts of up to $4.25 million by issuing bonds (as determined by Article VII, Section 16 of the City Charter), any bond for a higher amount requires voter approval. And before such a question can be put to voters, it must first be approved by seven of the nine members of the City Council. That's the majority that no school bond proposal has been able to get to date.
As an aside, this seven-vote super-majority requirement exists for good reason. It's not supposed to be easy for the city to borrow large amounts of money because the amount of debt the city carries has a direct impact on the city's financial future. I won't get into greater detail here, but it occurs to me that this could be a good topic for a future blog post....
Obviously, the best outcome of Council deliberations on the school bond would be for the Council to settle on one proposal that all Councilors (or at least seven) believe to be a cogent plan for improving our school facilities, but that hasn't happened.
What has happened is that a sort of informal agreement has been struck, whereby Councilors have mutually agreed to forward proposals they don't support themselves to voters provided that voters are given more than one option. And that's where we are now.
It seems quite likely that both the $32 million option and the $64 million option will be placed on a November ballot. As I said before, I'd like to see all three proposals, including the $24 million option, offered to voters, but I'm not sure the $24 million proposal will receive seven votes at Monday's meeting.
Shall the Order entitled "ORDER APPROVING LYSETH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL RENOVATION PROJECT AND OTHER MISCELLANEOUS IMPROVEMENTS AT REICHE, OCEAN AVENUE, PEAKS ISLAND AND RIVERTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, LYMAN MOORE AND KING MIDDLE SCHOOLS, AND DEERING HIGH SCHOOL WITH TOTAL PROJECT COSTS NOT TO EXCEED $24,000,000 AND AUTHORIZING GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS THEREFORE", with provisions for early redemption as set forth in said Order be Approved?
This is the wording for the $24 million option, and it's basically giving a brief description of the work and asking voters if the bond should be approved. To vote for this bond, you would fill in the oval next to YES on the ballot. To vote against it, you would fill in the oval next to NO.
You will be able to vote either YES or NO on each bond. You will not be required to choose just one option. That means you could support all of the bond proposals, just one or two of the bond proposals, or none of the bond proposals.
To pass, a referendum question must receive a majority of YES votes, meaning that more than 50% of voters vote in favor of it.
Obviously, if voters are allowed to vote YES on more than one option, there is the possibility that more than one bond option could receive a majority of YES votes, which brings us to the next question: How will the winner be chosen? Read on for that answer.
If more than one bond option receives a majority of YES votes, then the bond that has received the most YES votes will be determined to be the winner.
In the unlikely event that two (or more) bonds that have received a majority of YES votes should have the exact same number of YES votes, then the one with the least NO votes will be the winner.
In the even more unlikely event that the NO votes for these bonds also tied, then the decision about which one is the "winner" would be made by the City Council.
So, in summary, first a bond has to receive a majority of YES votes; if more than one bond achieves that, the bond with the most YES votes wins; if there's a tie, we'll look at the NO votes, and the bond with the least NO votes will be the winner.
Finally, if none of the bonds achieve a majority of YES votes, then none will pass and we'll have to go back to the drawing board.
It could be a long night, so you might want to bring some snacks.
Of course, you can also contact individual Councilors to let them know how you feel about the school bond, which option or options you'd like to see on the ballot, and any concerns or questions you may have. You can find contact information for all of the Councilors and the Mayor here.