Survey shows strong support for Lindbergh ballot measure

By MIKE ANTHONY

Responses to a recent telephone survey show overwhelming support — 84 percent — for a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue being considered to address the Lindbergh School District’s capital needs.

The results of the telephone survey, conducted during April by DeSieghardt Strategic Communications of Stillwell, Kan., were presented by Dennis DeSieghardt during a recent Board of Education meeting.

“In addition to 84-percent overall support, many subgroups had support levels that topped 90 percent, suggesting the appeal of solid projects coupled with a financing program that would have no tax impact on voters,” states DeSieghardt’s report presented June 13 to the Board of Education.

The Board of Education contracted with DeSieghardt Strategic Communications and its data collection partner, Market Research Associates, to conduct the telephone survey of 500 patrons of the school district. The cost of the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, and a corresponding communications audit will not exceed $21,800, according to Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent for finance and the district’s chief financial officer.

“Four-hundred patrons were contacted through random digit dialing, with an additional 100 drawn from a randomly selected list of known district parents,” states DeSieghardt’s report. “The additional calls were completed to ensure that a suitable number of district parents would be included in the total respondent population to allow for an accurate comparison between those who have a student presently in the district and those who do not.”

Terming the survey “very scientific,” Lanane told the Call, “… The demographics of the survey match the demographics of the district, and the important thing I think there is particularly we have so many people over the age of 65 that we really don’t have a lot of close contact with. So I think it’s imperative that every once in a while, we get out from the inside of our own little cocoon sometimes and get out there and really make sure we’ve got a good public sampling because I think they have some different ideas sometimes than those who are so close to us.”

A ZIP code quota was established for the 400 core calls to ensure the population distribution represented by the survey re-spondents would reflect the district’s population.

“We had some questions for our parents, and we oversampled with our parents. We didn’t count them in the 400 responses. The parents were in the same proportion that you’d normally (have). But we had a few questions that we thought it was important to hear from our parents on and so we got an extra hundred parents that we pulled out of our files. But we didn’t use those extra hundred in our numbers because that would skew the numbers,” Lan-ane said.

Survey respondents were asked to grade the district in 17 areas with either an A, B, C, D or F with an A worth five points and an F worth 1 point on such items as convenience of schools, safety of schools, quality of education provided, variety of extracurricular activities, to name a few.

“Of those 17, for 15 we scored above a 4, which is above a B,” he said, noting that a 5 would be nearly impossible to achieve because it would require all respondents to give the district a 5. “Five was really an unattainable score. We considered, and I think it’s a fair consideration, that anything above a 4 is pretty darn positive. And, in fact, there were only two out of the 17 below that and they were pretty close.”

A big surprise, though, was the high percentage of respondents who provided “don’t-know” answers, Lanane said.

“That’s not necessarily a negative response, but it tells us that there’s a communications gap … We were surprised, and the consultant, Ken DeSieghardt, was very surprised,” he said, noting that DeSieghardt said he had never seen such high positives juxtaposed against the high number of “don’t knows.”

The survey first raised the issue of a bond issue to renovate and upgrade existing buildings by asking whether respondents were supportive of the idea, and a total of 54 percent said they either “strongly favor” or “favor” such a bond issue.

After determining the initial level of support for a bond issue, respondents then were asked about projects being considered for such a bond issue.

“Several projects were clearly seen as critical by patrons,” the report states. “High percentages of ‘more likely to vote in favor’ responses were seen for” the following projects:

• Upgraded fire alarm systems — 75 percent.

• Roof replacement — 71 percent.

• Kennerly Elementary redesign and expansion — 64 percent.

• Upgraded security — 62 percent.

Support was still good, although somewhat more modest, for the following projects:

• Sappington Elementary redesign and expansion — 58 percent.

• Expansion at Crestwood Elementary — 57 percent.

• AC replacement at Sperreng Middle — 57 percent.

“The one project set that drew more lukewarm support was the combination that included updates at the high school track, gym and auditorium,” the report states. “In this case, 45 percent said they would be more likely to vote in favor, and 28 percent said they would be more likely to vote against the proposal if these projects were included.”

Support for a bond issue grew “measurably” — to 67 percent — after the details of the bond issue were revealed, and further increased from the “strong 67 percent to extremely significant 84 percent once the idea of ‘no tax increase’ is presented to patrons,” the report states.

The Board of Education for some time has been considering the possibility of a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue to address the district’s capital needs. If board members ultimately decide to pursue a no-tax-rate increase bond issue, the district’s debt-service tax rate would remain unchanged at 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, but would be extended for an as-yet undetermined period of time if approved by voters. A four-sevenths majority would be required for approval.

The report states that the survey results reveal a population that “is highly satisfied with the people, facilities and performance of the district, and only has what would be considered a typical level of concern when it comes to how tax money is spent, and how much involvement the district seeks from patrons as decisions are made. Yet, there is also a measurable percentage of patrons who have very limited district knowledge.”