Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why use private dollars when we can spend tax money?

You may have seen the article about the new school that Portland School District wants to build in the Columbia Villa housing project.

They need a 550-student elementary school for the new neighborhood, and their plan is to close down nearby Ball Elementary, because it is in need of substantial repair. The problem is the District doesn't have the money to build the school.

So they have tried to put together a creative financing package that includes a bank loan, fundraising, tax credits and about a million dollars from the city of Portland. Last week the city said "No Dinero."

So they are stuck. Turns out that NOT building the school will cost them a million dollars or so since they will have to do the repairs to Ball, and bus the kids from Columbia Villa there.

Here's the punchline: they could have a brand new public school built on that parcel of land using no taxpayer money, but they turned down the offer.

How? Well, Portland School District approved a charter elementary school a few years ago that never opened because it could not find a facility. The charter school would have happily built the school on the Columbia Villa site, and offered to work with the district and the Housing Authority of Portland to make it happen.

The district had no interest. They would rather spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money to build a school rather than get the school for free. Why?

Well that would be a good question for the school board.

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