Grass Valley school officials OK bond measure for June ballot | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley school officials OK bond measure for June ballot

Trustees for the Grass Valley School District voted Tuesday to pull the trigger on a facilities bond measure and will place it on the June ballot.

The proposed school bond has been in the works for more than a year as the district refined its wish list for repairs and possible new construction. The cost estimate for everything on the district's original wish list penciled out at $40 million, but was whittled down to health, safety and preservation needs at approximately $22 million.

A general obligation bond would require a 55 percent yes vote to pass.

The district surveyed residents of the community late last year to gauge support for the bond measure, which came back with 59 percent support. The survey showed the most support for repairs and facilities updates, with low support for building projects.

The district subsequently sent out a second survey in late January, the results of which were discussed at its board meeting Tuesday.

A consultant conducted 413 telephone and online interviews with voters in the district to test a lower bond amount — $19 million — and new bond measure language that adds in the overall tax impact, a change required by a new state law.

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"We were trying to get a read on issues that had come up in the community," said researcher Lucia Del Puppo.

Del Puppo noted that there were no major shifts in the findings, which was not surprising since there was not much of a gap in time between the two surveys. She said, however, that there was value in keeping local schools in the minds of voters.

The survey found 62 percent of the voters would probably or definitely vote yes on the bond measure, with that number dropping slightly to 60 percent among voters likely to cast a ballot in June.

That percentage is not a "slam dunk" for the bond measure, Del Puppo said.

A proposed sales tax measure by the city of Grass Valley was also an evaluated factor. The survey found the sales tax would not affect their support for the bond measure.

Del Puppo said the survey also tested negative and positive messaging and its effects on voting. A generic anti-tax message dropped the potential yes to 55 percent, she said. Among the positive messages that were tested, the concept of repairing aging facilities resonated strongly, as did fiscal accountability.

"The effort has to be out there to get out the vote and hang on to the support you have, and avoid any organized opposition," Del Puppo said.

Several board members expressed concern about the tight timeline required to place the bond measure on the June ballot.

"The margin of error is very close," acknowledged district Superintendent Eric Fredrickson.

But, Fredrickson argued, the district's facilities are at a point where the budget will not support making the necessary improvements.

"I have angst about the margin, but I don't see us kicking it down the road," he said.

In the end, the board agreed, approving placing the measure on the June ballot in a unanimous vote.

Contact Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.