By Marsha Sutton
More than 64 percent of likely voters in the San Dieguito Union High School District would support a General Obligation bond in the November election to improve and upgrade the district’s facilities, SDUHSD board members learned at a workshop May 9.
“This is a strong result,” said Timothy McLarney, president of True North Research, Inc., an Encinitas-based survey research firm. “Voters are seeing your performance and saying this is a good investment.”
What makes these results impressive, McLarney said, is that high school districts typically receive less support than elementary and unified districts.
Relying on three years of staff and committee research, investigation and planning, the SDUHSD school board authorized the district in March to survey local voters to gauge their reaction to a proposed tax that would address facility needs.
The Irvine-based Dolinka Group, hired by the district in Feb. for bond-related financial advisory services, subcontracted with True North Research to conduct the poll.
McLarney said the 17-minute telephone survey conducted between April 20 and April 27 reached about 500 people whose profiles represented a sampling of the district’s demographic make-up. The margin of error was 4.4 percent.
Participants were asked if they would support increased property taxes to repair and upgrade aging schools, improve science labs, classrooms and libraries with modern technology, and boost student safety and security.
Additionally, they were told that the bond money, although required by law to be used only for capital improvements and school facilities upgrades and repair, would free up general fund money which could then be used to hire and retain qualified teachers and save academic programs.
The district’s proposed General Obligation bond measure, for $448 million, would include independent citizen oversight and would need 55 percent to pass. With survey results indicating 64 percent of voter support, the recommendation by the district’s consultants was positive to move forward.
SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah said he would bring the item to the next school board meeting on May 24 for discussion. At that time, board members can ask questions and share their thoughts, he said, as well as hear from community members on the issue.
Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, said exact wording for the bond measure must be decided by the July 26 school board meeting, which is when trustees will vote whether to place the bond levy on the November ballot. Wording must be officially submitted in final form to the county Registrar of Voters by August 10.
Dill said the exact amount and terms have not yet been determined. The district has been using the figure of $25 per $100,000 of assessed property value, for 30 years, as a starting point. For property valued at $600,000, this would cost property owners $150 per year. This amount, he said, would raise the needed $448 million.
The maximum taxation allowed under law for this bond is $30 for every $100,000 for 40 years, Dill said.
The Dolinka contract for financial advisory services related to the GO bond is for $85,000, to be funded by campaign donations and future bond issues.