By Maureen Robertson
If Ramona Unified School District held a school bond election today, it would pass, results of a survey conducted March 5-7 show.
Greg Isom of Isom Advisors, shared survey results with trustees at their March 13 meeting. The survey of 400 registered voters reflecting district demographics shows a 60 percent favorable response. State law requires 55 percent voter approval for a school bond to pass.
After asking about specific projects on which to spend bond money, survey respondents registered 51.5 percent Yes and 8.5 percent Lean Yes.
Among proposed projects garnering the most support are: repair or replace leaky roofs, renovate classrooms to accommodate vocational education programs, create a technology and computer endowment, repair or replace old plumbing systems, make health and safety and handicapped accessibility improvements, and modernize outdated classrooms, restrooms and school facilities.
Presented with three choices — $60, $50 or $45 per $100,000 of assessed property value per year — respondents preferred $45, with 49.5 percent in favor. When the options were presented per month — $5/$4/$3.75 — that favorable response was nearly 8 percent higher, 60.4 percent.
The majority believe the district provides a quality education, and voters understand that good schools mean better property values, Isom said.
Seven or eight years ago, everyone’s property value was increasing, even in districts with low test scores, said RUSD Board President Dan Lopez.
“The value of schools now, more than anything, plays a big deal in our property values — and that resonates with non-student households,” said Lopez.
What Trustee Rodger Dohm likes about a local bond is “it’s an opportunity to use our money in Ramona for what we want it to be.”
“We have control over it,” he said, commenting that he’s frustrated with taxes, “because it’s spent not the way I want it to be spent.”
With a local bond, “we get to choose, this community. It’s going to be spent right here,” he said.
Isom agreed, saying that people prefer local measures over statewide.
“By law, all the money that’s passed here has to be spent here,” said Isom. “There’s a citizens oversight committee to make sure the bond money is being spent how you said it’s going to be spent.”
Isom, who admitted he had expected survey results to be less favorable, said his firm has seen changes in attitude in traditionally conservative districts such as Ramona.
“I think people are starting to see this value of local control,” he said, citing a district in Shasta County that has been surveyed twice.
Two years ago that district’s survey showed only 52 percent support for a bond.
“Just got the survey back yesterday, and it’s now 62 percent, so a lot changes in two years,” he said.
Responding to Lopez’s question about cost, Isom said “the only cost that the district is going to incur from now till probably election day is the cost of putting this on the ballot.”
Most bonds are for 25 or 30 years, he said, responding to another question and noting that no bond term was given in the survey.
The next step is to assess community leaders and other stakeholders to determine their support for a school bond measure on the November 2012 ballot, said Isom.
“Elections are won on the Lean Yes, Undecided, Lean No,” said Isom. “We know that you have 50 percent of your voters Yes, no matter what. A third of them are saying, I’m a No. It’s the fight for that middle ground.”