Del Mar school district survey shows positive voter feedback on bond feasibility

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District received positive results on its general obligation bond feasibility survey at a June 14 special meeting. The survey indicated that 64 percent of surveyed voters would be willing to support a measure on the November ballot if the district opted to go in that direction. The board is expected to make a final decision on the bond at its July meeting.

The district’s study was conducted by the Dolinka Group, with help from True North Research and TBWB Strategies. The survey was given by telephone to 300 district voters who are likely to participate in the November 2012 election. The calls were made from May 26 to June 5, lasting 17 minutes per call.

Tim McLarney, president of True North Research, said that because November is a presidential election it is an easy one for voters to participate in. A high turnout is expected: Of the 22,535 voters in the district, it is likely that 19,997 will participate in the election, according to McLarney.

In order for the bond to pass it needs 55 percent of the vote, or 10,999 “Yes” votes.

The survey presented voters with a measure that issued $95 million in bonds in order to improve instructional technology and computer systems in classrooms, libraries and school facilities; repair and maintain aging classrooms and buildings; improve student safety; and make funding available to protect and enhance the quality of core academic instruction.

In the initial ballot test, 64 percent said they would vote “Yes” on the measure. At the completion of the survey, with more information given, 63 percent said that they would vote “Yes.”

Among the 29 percent that voted “No,” 18 percent said they needed more information and another 18 percent said that the measure was unnecessary, that the schools are OK.

McLarney said those were good answers because they did not reflect that people were opposed to the bond on principle and none of the other answers were red flags about the district.

The survey tested the tax threshold that people would be willing to support. Sixty-one percent would support $12 per $100,000 of assessed property value; 64 percent would support a bond at $8 per $100,000 of assessed property value; and 69 percent would support $5 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

“The good news is that every one of those tax rates were above the needed 55 percent threshold,” McLarney said.

It is possible there will be two GO bonds on the November ballot as Del Mar is considering one at $12 per $100,000 and the San Dieguito Union High School District is considering one between $20 and $25 per $100,000.

The Del Mar school board did voice some concerns about voters supporting two bond measures on the same ballot, but district superintendent Jim Peabody said that if the districts go about it in a cooperative way, they may both be successful.

“We don’t want to punish the taxpayers, we want what’s best for the children,” Peabody said, noting that the bonds could strengthen both districts. “We’re in this together.”

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