By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Following a survey of registered voters within the boundaries of the Rim school district, True North Research has determined that floating a bond measure in 2024 would be feasible.
A total of 434 surveys were completed. Overall, 92 percent of the respondents rated maintaining local roads as important or extremely important. A close second at 88 percent was improving the quality of education in the local public schools. Repairing and upgrading aging school facilities came in at 70 percent.
The question asked was, “Shall the Rim of the World Unified School District measure authorizing $71 million in bonds at legal rates be adopted, levying 3 cents per $100 assessed value while bonds are outstanding, with citizen oversight and all money staying local? If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on this measure?”
Definitely yes was the answer of 31.9 percent of the respondents; probably yes, 32.6 percent; definitely no, 15.6 percent; probably no, 10 percent; not sure, 8.8 percent; and prefer not to answer, 1.1 percent.
When asked if they would support a tax threshold of $30, $25 or $20 per $100,000, the “yes” answers were close: 51 percent at $30, 54 percent at $25 and 59 percent at $20.
“It’s important to make it clear a bond means taxes,” Dr. Timothy McLarney of TrueNorth told the trustees. “The question about an amount per assessed value can be confusing for voters. They need to know the assessed value of their house and have to be able to do math in their heads quickly. So we put it another way – an amount per year – and got a stronger result.”
When respondents were asked if they would be willing to pay $73 per year, 62.9 percent said definitely or probably yes. At $49 per year, the response was 67.1 percent.
“Bonds are about capital improvement,” McLarney noted. “But, at the end of the day, voters care less about buildings and more about what happens inside them. It will be important as you talk about the bond that you talk about why the building improvements are important, how they impact the quality of education.”
The answers about quality of education in the Rim schools were mixed: excellent, 5.1 percent; good, 19.6 percent; fair, 30.5 percent; poor, 10.6 percent; very poor, 9.5 percent; not sure, 22.5 percent; prefer not to answer, 2.1 percent.
“The better job voters think you’re doing, the more likely they are to vote for a revenue measure,” McLarney said. Those who said they were not sure, he noted, “may not have kids in the district or didn’t have kids go through the district. It becomes a communication challenge and opportunity when you move forward with a bond measure. You need to fill the gray area (the color of “not sure” on the graph) with success stories.”
Topping the projects and programs that respondents felt were most important was providing modern science labs, engineering labs, career training facilities so students are prepared for college and in-demand careers in fields like health sciences, engineering, tech and skilled trades – in other words, McLarney said, STEM and the classes in the CTE program. Those numbers were 62.8 percent strongly in favor, 23 percent somewhat favor.
Running a close second at 65.1 percent and 20.7 percent was the repair and replacement of roofs, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems.
“What stands out to me,” McLarney told the trustees, “is the strength of these results – the amount of interest voters have in each item.”
After answering several more questions, respondents were asked again if they would support a bond. The numbers “cooled down a bit,” McLarney said, “but not much” – 34 percent said definitely yes; 27.2 percent, probably yes; 11.5 percent, probably no; 17.6 percent, definitely no; 9.2 percent, not sure; 0.5 percent, prefer not to answer.
All the ballot tests, he said, are above 55 percent – the amount of support needed to be successful in California – even after the opposition arguments.
The challenges and unknowns are what 2024 will look like. “Recession hasn’t quite shown up. The stock market is starting to recover. It will be a hyper-partisan campaign in 2024 so you could get some fading support, especially among conservative voters,” McLarney said.
The survey tells the district where they are today, McLarney added. The actual results of a vote would depend on what happens between this poll and an election.
“You have to put the work in,” he said. “It’s important that voters understand the background, the motivation.
“I would recommend the district move forward at a pace where they can keep both March and November 2024 open as possibilities.” The filing deadline for the March election would be early December 2023.