NEWMAN - Buoyed by favorable responses from a survey of registered voters, Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District leaders signaled recently that they are moving forward with plans to put a bond measure before voters in 2020.
No formal decisions have been reached, but school board members directed staff to move forward with preparation of bond-related paperwork and asked that further discussions on bond amounts, tax rates and projects be put on their Sept. 9 agenda.
All indications are that the district will plan to put a measure on the March 2020 primary ballot - which would require a final decision at the board’s Oct. 14 meeting.
The survey results presented Aug. 12 by bond consultant Dale Scott reflected solid support for a bond measure among 127 voters questioned - particularly at the lower of two tax rate scenarios presented.
Scott said the survey indicated voters were likely to support not only traditional projects such as improving infrastructure and building new classrooms, but projects such as a pool available for community as well as school use and investment in development of below-market rate rental housing for staff members.
“Out of the box, you are at almost 60 percent positive,” said Scott.
From that starting point, voters asked about individual projects were generally “more likely to support” the bond measure the more they learned, he said, pushing likely voter support into the 60-percent range. Fifty-five percent voter support would be the threshold for bond approval.
Scott also pointed out additional survey findings which he said the district would do well to keep in mind if it embarks on a campaign.
One, he said, is that a significant percentage of voters surveyed have no direct links to the school district.
“You tend to think of your constituents as parents. Almost 50 percent of your voters that we surveyed have never had a child or grandchild in this district. It is an amazing number. What that means is that what they know about the district comes from (other sources),” Scott commented.
Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said they received information about the school district from friends or family and 30 percent said they turned to the local newspaper for information about schools.
“When you see 30 percent, that’s a big number,” he said. “It is a newspaper town, and it is a one-on-one communication (town).”
Another consideration, Scott said, is that the highest level of support by far among respondents came from voters whose history indicated that they were not regular voters.
“The unreliable voters are wildly for it, but they never vote,” he commented. For a March election, he indicated, the survey results likely to be most impactful were those garnered from the voters most likely to go to the polls. That level of support was measured in the low 60 percent range.
“That tells me that March makes sense,” Scott said of the findings. “If you don’t succeed, then you need to be prepared to go back in November. That is when the unreliable voter is going to vote. The big advantage of November is the higher voter turnout. That is going to be one big election. I think you can count on that.”
Superintendent Randy Fillpot echoed that recommendation, saying the district should go for a March bond measure.
“That gives us two shots (in 2020),” said Fillpot, adding that he believes a measure would most likely pass in March.
If for some reason a March bond failed, he later commented, the district could re-work the proposal to eliminate whatever projects or facet appeared to be a sticking point with voters before putting a measure on the November ballot.
The details of the measure have yet to be worked out, however.
The tax rate will determine the amount of bond proceeds.
Fillpot said that he would envision asking voters to approve a $24 million bond measure, which would require a tax increase of about $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
A portion of the bond proceeds could be used for purposes not included on the survey.
Fillpot advised during a joint school-city meeting last week that he will recommend using a portion of bond proceeds to pay off $5 million debt remaining from construction of Yolo Middle School. That obligation is now costing the district $750,000 a year in interest along, he told Mattos Newspapers.
Other potential uses for the bond money include a swimming pool, development of staff housing (which would not necessarily all come from bond proceeds), improvements to Orestimba which include new locker rooms, two classroom wings, a new administration building and other upgrades, and improvements to Von Renner Elementary which include a new administration building, multi-use room and classroom wings.
Discussions on prioritizing those projects - and on matching up tax rates and bond amounts - are likely to bring the bond outlook more clearly into focus when the school board meets on Sept. 9.