City Council votes April 8 on bond issuance; property tax rates remain the same
(Portland, OR) –
A crucial component of the City’s November 2014 voter-approved ballot initiative moves forward with a Council hearing on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, and an expected vote of April 8, 2015. Portland City Council will consider an ordinance to sell the first issuance of $29 million in general obligation bonds, to fund much-needed repairs to Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) sites and facilities. Portland voters overwhelmingly approved the November 2014 parks replacement bond measure, which renews an expiring 1994 bond at the same tax rate. The parks bond measure allows PP&R to raise up to $68 million to meet some of the most critical major maintenance needs across the parks system, including (but not limited to):
-Seven to 15 play areas currently closed, at risk of closure, or deficient, including Couch, Creston, Kenton, Lents, Lynchview, the North Park Blocks, and Ventura Parks
-Bridge and trail repairs, including in Forest Park and along Springwater Corridor
-Repairs at Community pools, including Matt Dishman, Peninsula, Grant
-Sellwood Park buildings, Rieke Field, Multnomah Arts Center, St. Johns Community Center
-Restrooms, roofs, other deficient structures and equipment
-Pioneer Courthouse Square failing structures, leaks, cracks
-Removing barriers to accessibility for people experiencing disabilities, at multiple locations
-Parks maintenance buildings to address worker safety, efficiency.
“It is an exciting time. With approval of the Ordinance, Portlanders will see the highly anticipated project improvements beginning work in our parks, pools and other sites,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Up until this point, staff have been working behind the scenes preparing for project implementation. Now our efforts will become more visible. I thank the voters again for their support in enabling us to meet these crucial major maintenance needs. We will continue to work alongside the community throughout this process“.
On April 1, City Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the first issuance of parks bonds. A subsequent vote is expected on April 8. The ordinance would authorize up to $29 million in voter-approved bonds to finance already-identified parks repair and service projects, including
- Grant Pool, where pump and filtration systems are in danger of failing
- A renovated playground at Lents Park
- A Portland Loo at Parklane Park and Wilkes Park
- A renovated playground at the North Park Blocks
- Forest Park’s Maple Trail and Lower Macleay Trail bridges
- Matt Dishman Community Center pool repairs
- Major maintenance at PP&R buildings including Mt Tabor Yard
- ADA improvements at the Washington Park Rose Garden
- Summit restroom renovations at Mt Tabor Park
- Repairs at Sellwood Pool
- Repairs at the Multnomah Arts Center
- Repairs to Pioneer Courthouse Square
- Seismic and mechanical improvements at St Johns Community Center
- Couch Park’s playground improvements (note: discussions with the community about the timing and scale of improvements are ongoing.)
The major renovations to both Grant Pool and Pioneer Courthouse Square are already underway, with bond project managers assigned. The other projects need to wait until July until the bonds are actually sold.
Commissioner Fritz plans to split the bond measure implementation into at least two bond issuances, with the first in June 2015, and a second in 2017. The proceeds from the first bond issuance will cover the first two years of expected project expenditures from the initial, already identified project list. Borrowing the minimum necessary for the first two years minimizes interest paid on money that would otherwise be idle until Portland Parks & Recreation is ready to move forward on the second round of projects. The second issuance, likely in spring or summer of 2017, would fund projects from the initial list which extend beyond the two-year spending window, as well as a second list of projects. The second project list will also focus on urgent major repair and replacement needs, as promised in the ballot measure. Portland Parks & Recreation will conduct a public involvement process in late 2016 to help prioritize the second project list.
The bureau will also receive public input from a Community Oversight Committee, which will review the bond implementation performance and report to Council and the community. The Oversight Committee will help determine how the approximately $20 million not specifically allocated for the initial project list should be spent. With citywide major parks maintenance needs of over $300 million still unfunded, there will still be many competing needs for these funds.
“At this and at every other milestone along the way of implementing the Parks Replacement Bond, we want to thank Portlanders,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “Their support of this bond reaffirms their stewardship of our park system and will allow us to meet critical major maintenance needs. Our work strives for better places and parks for all visitors. We will continue to work alongside the community in the implementation of this bond and look forward to reporting back on its progress.”
Commissioner Fritz has approved supplementing bond funds in a small number of key projects with System Development Charges (SDC) funds as appropriate. SDCs are one-time fees assessed on new development, to cover a portion of the costs of providing capacity-increasing park improvements for our growing community. Parks SDC money can only be spent on capital improvements that increase the capacity of parks and recreation. These projects include:
- Parklane Park (new Portland Loo)
- Ventura Park (new playground and Loo to serve rapidly growing east Portland community, including nearly 1500 youth and a nearby school)
- Wilkes Park (new Portland Loo)
"We will continue to look for ways to leverage bond funds with outside grants and private fundraising efforts,” adds Commissioner Fritz. “Parks staff is fully engaged in planning refinement, staff recruitment and orientation, with the goal to begin construction soon as possible once bond proceeds are available.”
The Bonds will be paid off over a period of no more than 15 years. The City expects to sell the first bonds in June, 2015, via competitive bidding. Community members interested in purchasing bonds should contact their investment brokers for information.
“This parks replacement bond helps pay for some of the most crucial maintenance needs across our parks system, while remaining sensitive to Portlanders’ ability to pay,” adds Commissioner Fritz. “These funds will make a major difference, although they won’t completely close the gap our parks and facilities face. I will continue to look for ways to address the needs of our parks system.”