Involving the community in bond and local option elections
Setting the levy amount with community input
Successful bond measures require community ownership. Districts should involve key community leaders in a broadbased community advisory committee charged with reviewing and setting priorities for district facility needs.
The district should hire a professional survey firm to conduct a random-sample telephone survey to assess voter understanding of the need and support for the community advisory committee’s recommendations. Boards should use the survey data to make decisions about the final bond levy proposal and include the survey messages in the ballot title and election materials.
Effective use of advisory committees
Identify up to 30 community members who represent key groups in your community to review and prioritize facility needs. Make sure the committee represents a cross-section of community groups: builders, realtors, the chamber of commerce or other key community groups, city and/or county planners, the fire marshal’s office, the ministerial association, parents, school district classified and certified staff, senior citizens, any other organization or agency that has recent experience with major building or renovation projects.
Send personal invitations to potential representatives asking them to serve on the committee. Describe the task. Provide a timeline that indicates how many meetings or hours will be required.
Once the committee is formed, review and discuss the district’s facility needs and establish a timeline for addressing those needs based on the desired completion date and election date.
Provide appropriate administrative and secretarial support.
Follow open meetings law requirements. The facility review committee is an advisory committee to the school board. Its meetings are public meetings. Notice requirements are the same as for board meetings.
Make sure meeting minutes and the committee’s final report are distributed widely so that all staff and other community members become aware of the district’s needs.
Follow the committee’s advice as closely as possible in determining bond levy projects and amounts.
Conducting a community survey
Random-sample telephone surveys of district voters continue to be the most reliable way of testing voter understanding of and support for an issue. For statistically accurate results, the number of voters polled will depend on the number of registered voters in a district. Survey costs vary depending on district size and survey sample size. Districts should conduct a 10- to 15-minute survey (40 questions, including three to five open-ended questions) with +/-5 percent accuracy. Questions about the measure should be specific, including the amount of the levy, the tax rate, project components and their costs as well as other issues that may influence the board’s decision.
This information is taken from OSBA’s Oregon School Bond Manualwhich is designed as a guide to help school district, education service district and community college officials understand their long- and short-term borrowing options.