Portland street fee could cost schools tens of thousands of $$$

Portland street fee could cost schools tens of thousands of $$$ »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Call it street fee sticker shock. City leaders officially rolled out a plan Thursday to patch up Portland's crumbled roads and dangerous intersections, but the street fee could force school districts to cough up tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland Commissioner Steve Novick insist the fee would fund the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and raise up to $53 million per year for street improvements, sidewalks and safety work at dangerous intersections. During a press conference Thursday the pair, who has been pushing the campaign for several weeks, left little doubt that the street fee is on the fast track.

"We're resolved to stop talking about it and do something about it," Hales said.

The On Your Side Investigators requested the estimated street fees for Portland's school districts from PBOT Thursday and found four districts will pay a combined $610,377 a year.
    
Annual Estimates for Portland School Districts: (Excel spreadsheet)
--Centennial School District: $5,538.
--Park School District: $27,398.
--David Douglas School District: $87,824.
--Portland Public Schools: $489,616.

The fees are calculated based on square footage of the building and nationally designated standards for how many vehicle trips any particular property generates, according to PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera.     

Rivera insists the numbers are estimates but some parents are outraged.

Parent Shannon O'Brien said, "I think the schools are already strapped, and I don't think they should add on any more bills. I mean, kids are crammed in classes as it is."

O'Brien has three kids in the David Douglas School District and she's concerned the street fee could translate into cutbacks in the district's extracurricular activities.

"I wonder a lot because my kids play sports and stuff and I think that's very important," O'Brien said.

The On Your Side Investigators reached out to several school districts for comment Thursday but all declined to comment. Spokespeople for both Portland Public Schools and David Douglas schools said their districts were still crunching the numbers on the fees but it was clear, there was cause for concern.

The Multnomah Education Service District (ESD) emailed KATU a statement, stating in part, "Anytime there is an imposed additional tax or fee placed on school districts or ESDs, it impacts our ability to provide quality programs and services to students, which is our main mission and concern."

Portland Commissioner Steve Novick believes the city's using an ugly fee to fix an uglier problem.
    
"None of us want to be doing this," Novick said Thursday. "I would have much preferred when I took office I found our streets were in great shape and all our kids in Portland had a safe sidewalk to walk on to get to school."

Districts will get a discount because they're vacant during summer, according to Rivera.

If city leaders moved forward with the fee, KATU learned it would not go into effect until July 2015, allowing public agencies to absorb costs into their next fiscal year budgets.

In an effort to track where the street fee money is going, The On Your Side Investigators found some of it could go back to schools. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is recommending that 10 percent of the fee go toward crosswalk beacons, painted crosswalks and other features to make the areas around schools safer.

"We expect that every school district in the city of Portland will see these investments around schools as well worth the benefit of the transportation user fee," Rivera said via email.

How much will the street fee costs homeowners, business owners and renters? Head to Portland Bureau of Transportation's User Fee Calculator or read more here.