School Climate & Safety

Portland, Ore., Voters Approve Record Tax to Fix Lead-Laced, Crumbling Buildings

By Corey Mitchell — May 17, 2017 1 min read

Voters in the Portland, Ore., school system have approved a $790 million tax proposal to help mitigate an ongoing lead-in-water crisis in the district and to fund repairs and improvements for crumbling schools.

The district will use the money to replace aging pipes and fixtures and to mitigate the effects of lead paint, radon, and asbestos. It also will renovate or rebuild four schools, repair roofs, and add or replace fire alarms and sprinklers.

The measure passed with weary two-thirds of voters, 65.95 percent.

According to the district, the average school in Portland is 77 years old, and 10 are more than 100 years old. Nearly all the district’s schools have lead levels in the water that exceed federal safety standards. Many of the buildings are also plagued by peeling lead paint, and high concentrations of radon and asbestos.

The bond approved Tuesday comes five years after residents backed a $482 million bond to renovate and repair dozens of schools.

The effects of the lead stretched well beyond the schools’ water fountains and sink spigots: It also led to the departure of Superintendent Carole Smith, who resigned after news organizations revealed that the district failed to disclose that the drinking water at dozens of schools had elevated lead levels as far back as 2010.

For Further Reading

To Fix Schools’ High Lead Levels, Portland, Ore., Districts Seeks tax Increase

Portland, Ore., Superintendent Steps Down Amid Lead Controversy

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.