Involving the community in bond and local option elections

Setting the levy amount with community input

Because of the difficulty of meeting Oregon’s double majority voting requirement for bond levies, districts need to generate community ownership of the bond proposal. Districts should involve key community leaders in 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 proposed measure. Boards can use this data to make decisions on a bond levy proposal.

Effective use of advisory committees

  • Identify up to 30 community members who represent key groups in your community to review and prioritize facility needs. Include 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 representatives. Ask them to serve on the committee. Describe the task. Provide a timeline, which indicates the approximate number of meetings or hours, required to complete the task.
  • 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 school board meetings.
  • Make sure meeting minutes and the committee’s final report are distributed widely so that 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

A reliable way of testing voter understanding of and support for an issue is to conduct a random sample survey of district voters. 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. Generally, districts should conduct a 10- to 15-minute survey (40 to 50 questions, including three to five open-ended questions) with +5-7 percent reliability. Questions about the measure should be specific, including the amount of the levy, what it will pay for and the tax rate.

This information is taken from OSBA’s Oregon School Bond Manual which is designed as a guide to help school district, education service district and community college officials understand their long- and short-term borrowing options.