Survey: Voters would support Solana Beach School District bond measure

Solana Beach School District
Solana Beach School District
(Kristina Houck)

According to a recent poll, a majority of voters would narrowly approve a general obligation bond for the Solana Beach School District, if the district moves forward with such a measure.

Of the 300 people surveyed, nearly 59 percent said they would definitely or probably vote in favor of a general obligation bond on the ballot. Although nearly 30 percent said they would definitely or probably vote against a general obligation bond, almost 11 percent said they were not sure.

The district would need 55 percent approval to pass a bond measure.

“We see a group that’s not sure,” Superintendent Terry Decker said. “That’s certainly an opportunity for us to give some information and help inform those people about what it is we’re working on.”

The poll is the district’s latest step in exploring whether to place a general obligation bond on the ballot.

The poll helped the district gather information about the community, identify community priorities and determine if a bond is feasible, Decker explained.

“No set decision has been made at this point,” he said. “This was all part of our work to determine what we think might be possible, or what the options are for us.”

Encinitas-based True North Research conducted the poll throughout December.

Of the 19,433 registered voters in the district’s boundaries, 300 people were randomly selected to participate in the poll. Interviews were conducted over the phone, with 40 to 50 percent of respondents on cell phones.

A computer-assisted system called CATI, or Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing, was used to conduct the interviews. The system alerts interviewers to data entry errors, navigates skip patterns and randomizes appropriate questions.

Interviews were conducted from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Interviews averaged 17 minutes.

Those surveyed were asked about the importance of seven different issues.

Of that list, respondents ranked maintaining the quality of education in local public schools at the top, with nearly 88 percent. Maintaining local streets and roads came next at 74 percent; followed by protecting the environment at 69 percent; improving public safety at 66 percent; maintaining local property values at 65 percent; and repairing and upgrading aging school facilities at 59 percent. Preventing local tax increases ranked last with almost 54 percent.

“It is important for us to know where the priorities fall within our district,” Decker said.

Respondents were asked to rate the quality of education provided in the Solana Beach School District.

Of the 300 participants, more than 70 percent rated the quality of education as good or excellent. Nearly 7 percent said fair, less than 2 percent said poor, and less than 2 percent said very poor. Nearly 19 percent said they were not sure.

Those surveyed were also asked whether they would favor spending money on various programs and projects, from repairing outdated buildings to replacing portable classrooms.

Of the dozen options, respondents ranked providing modern facilities and equipment needed for core courses in math, science engineering, arts and technology at the top, with close to 81 percent. The next highest priorities included improving campus security; repairing or replacing leaky roofs, old plumbing, and electrical systems; repairing and upgrading outdated classrooms, science labs, libraries and buildings; and removing hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead paint from older schools. Of the lower ranked programs and projects, creating a centralized kitchen to improve quality, nutritional value meals ranked last with 52 percent.

“Those types of projects are really a solid match to what’s in our facilities masters plan,” said Decker, in reference to the top-ranked programs and projects. “That helps us know that there’s some alignment between the kinds of things that our community is interested in seeing us do and what we have in our facilities master plan.”

Respondents were also asked for reasons why they would or would not support a bond measure.

The top reason in support of a measure was that there will be a clear system of fiscal accountability, including a citizens’ oversight committee and independent audits. Other reasons included protecting the quality of life and local schools; money would stay local; older schools need repairs; and the measure would help support continued high student achievement.

Of those who said they would not support the measure, just over 21 percent said they had no particular reason, 21 percent said the money could be mismanaged, and nearly 19 percent said taxes are already too high. Just over 14 percent said they needed more information, 10 percent said the schools are OK, and nearly 9 percent said the district has enough money.

Founded in 1925, the Solana Beach School District has seven elementary schools and a child development center. In 2014, the district opened its seventh school, Solana Ranch Elementary School, in Pacific Highlands Ranch. Other schools, however, opened decades ago and need to be updated. Skyline School, for example, was constructed in phases between 1955 and 1961 and was modernized in 2000.

In preparation for a potential bond measure, the district is currently working with architects and engineers on improvement projects for the schools, including identifying areas of need and determining project timeframes.

If the district moves forward with a bond on the November ballot and the measure passes, the district would need to submit its plans to the Division of the State Architect by December 2016. The Division of State Architect provides design and construction oversight for K-12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and leased facilities. Construction could then start as early as summer 2017, according to district staff.