More than 80 percent of Berkeley voters would support a $125 million school bond if it appeared on the November ballot, a district-sponsored survey reports.
But support for a special tax of 5 cents per square foot, which would be used for maintenance and fire safety at school sites, isn’t as strong – about 68 percent, slightly above the necessary two-thirds level, said they’d vote for the tax.
Those results were presented Wednesday night to the school board, which must decide in the coming weeks whether to place the bond measure, the special tax or both items on the fall ballot.
The school board directors were given a lot of numbers to chew on, including the possible support for the two measures if both were to be sent to voters. The survey by GLS Research found that only 47 percent of voters said they would vote for both measures, 21 percent would support only the bond and 9 percent would support only the tax. Twelve percent said they would vote against both measures, 4 percent said it would depend, and 6 percent were not sure.
The telephone survey of 600 randomly selected registered voters was conducted between May 29 and June 1. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
A big concern for the school district is the presence of other bond or tax measures on the November ballot. The City of Berkeley is moving forward with several proposals, which have yet to be formally placed on the ballot, and the Peralta Community College District is considering its own construction bond, although some North County residents say it should be defeated if it doesn’t guarantee money for a new Vista College project.
“Should you decide to proceed with the bond or the tax, or both, my sense is that this community will have to channel its passion for schools and its dedication for schools in an unprecedented manner into this campaign, because of the potential presence of so many other measures on the ballot,” said Paul Goodwin from GLS Research, who presented the survey findings to the school board.
The $125 million figure for the possible bond was identified as the most feasible in the survey, in terms of community support and size to fund the necessary construction and repairs. A bond of $75 million had 83 percent approval, while a $175 million bond only received 49 percent approval in the survey.
The school district says a new bond measure is necessary because Measure A, the $158 million measure approved by voters in 1992, is nearly out of funds and several major projects need to be completed.
Work remains to be done at Berkeley High, Berkeley Adult School, King Middle, City of Franklin, and in the food program. The money also may be used for the warm water pool project at Berkeley High and the East Campus playing fields, although the latter project’s fate is still unclear.
The tax measure would be used to fund corrective and ongoing maintenance at school sites around the district. A recent maintenance advisory committee report recommended that the BUSD double its current budget, from around $2 million to about $4 million.
Voter education will be necessary for the tax measure, Goodwin said, which currently is not well understood by many voters.
“Without a supreme effort of that kind, the tax clearly faces higher obstacles,” Goodwin said.
Director Ted Schultz felt the district has a “good shot” at passing both measures with a strong, active campaign, a sentiment echoed by other board members.
Board President Joaquin Rivera said it was vital to support new construction with the maintenance money.
“We cannot keep building buildings without being able to maintain them, because all the money, time and effort that has been put into them will go down the drain in just a few years,” Rivera said.
Superintendent Jack McLaughlin said a more refined proposal would come to the board on June 21 for discussion. Administrators said the formal language for any bond or tax measure must be delivered to the county by early August.