School bond consultant recommends more community outreach, lower tax rate

Bond consultant Jon Isom listens to a question during his voter survey report to trustees Monday. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson
Bond consultant Jon Isom listens to a question during his voter survey report to trustees Monday. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

By Maureen Robertson

If Ramona Unified School District wants to pass a bond, the goal should be to bring the community a proposal it wants to support, not one the board thinks is a great idea or the district administration wants, bond consultant Jon Isom of Urban Futures Inc. told trustees Monday evening.

After surveying 403 of Ramona’s 20,322 registered voters, Isom presented several recommendations. Among

them: lower the tax rate from the $60 per $100,000 assessed value proposed in the failed bond bid in 2012 to $39, and establish an independent citizens oversight committee before the election.

Support is near the 55 percent approval threshold, poll results showed, leading to his recommendation that the district “continue to reach out to and educate the community and consider placing a bond measure on the November 2014 ballot.”

Voters surveyed are those likely to vote in November, “so it’s going to be a slightly more conservative group,” he said. “If you only vote for president, you never vote for governor or primaries, you were not part of this sample.”

Based on survey responses, “voters are in favor of core brick and mortar infrastructure related improvements.” Voters don’t support a bond that only pays off the 2004 loan called certificate of participation (COP).

While 61 percent rated the quality of education in Ramona as good or excellent, support for a bond measure at the start of the survey was 52.1 percent, with another 4.5 percent leaning toward a yes vote. After providing information, survey results showed bond support was 50.4 percent, with 6.5 percent leaning yes.

The complete report is online on the district’s website, ramonaunified.net. Click on “Yesterday - Volume VI”

photo
.Trustee John Rajcic questions the bond consultant about the voter poll. At left is trustee Kim Lasley. At right is student board member Jessica Menjivar, a senior at Montecito High School. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

and, under “Special Report to the Board,” click on “School Bond.”

“There’s a definite tax sensitivity among the voters likely to vote in November,” said Isom, adding that “the lower the tax, the greater the support.”

The purpose of the voter poll is to give the district more information from the community, “to help determine if there are certain things that we might be able to do that will help the district ultimately pass one of these programs,” said Isom.

The survey has a 4.9 percent margin of error. It honed in on the reasons people voted no in the district’s 2012 bid for a $66 million bond: “tax rate too high, don’t trust the district to spend my tax dollars, don’t want to pay off the COP, opposed to taxes, the Poway scandal, and you don’t need it,” he said.

Calling the survey a great first step in giving the district direction, Isom said the district “has some work to do to Trustee Bob Stoody, left, listens as trustee Rodger Dohm asks about approaches to paying off the district's debt. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson continue to assess and find out what’s important to the community.” “Over the next several weeks, the board will be charged with shaping a bond program for the community which not only meets with community approval but which also provides the highest degree of support for our local schools,” Superintendent Robert Graeff wrote in his “Yesterday” report of April 28 board meeting highlights.

   
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