A survey conducted in April found 58 percent of contacted Maricopans indicated they would support a $75 million bond for Maricopa Unified School District.
The goal was at least 60 percent.
MUSD is mulling the option of asking voters for a bond to build a second high school. The state has determined Maricopa High School is over-capacity. The district has obtained mobile classrooms to alleviate part of the problem next school year.
A new high school, updates to safety and security at existing schools and new buses would all be part of the bond. The state’s School Facilities Board has already affirmed some money for construction and funding a land purchase.
Primary Consultants LLC was hired to complete the opinion poll, and calls were made April 24-30 to registered voters. Paul Ulan, founder of Primary Consultants, said 401 voters participated with a 5.5 percent margin of error.
When board member Patti Coutré questioned whether that was too small a sample on which to base a decision, Ulan said it was “a good snapshot of where we’re at.” Pollsters made more than 6,000 calls.
Ulan said pollsters gave voters “a pretty lengthy explanation of the bond” and explained what the tax impact would be before asking about support for a $75 million bond. That resulted in the 58-percent approval.
“You’d like to be at 60 percent,” Ulan said. “That’s sort of the magic number.”
Though not yet proposed, a $75 million bond would mean about $14 more per month in property taxes on an average home with a full assessed cash value of $117,000.
Respondents who answered no (31 percent) or unsure (11 percent) were subsequently asked if they would approve a bond of $50 million. That gained $15 percent approval from that group.
When those who still answered no or were unsure about $50 million were then asked if they would support what Ulan called “the bare minimum” $35 million bond, 17 percent said yes.
By the time the bottom number was reached, there was a total of 70 percent among all those polled in favor of a bond of some kind.
“Of course, that makes sense,” Ulan said. “Do you want to pay 10 bucks, eight bucks or five bucks?”
He said there is a core that will oppose any measure that increases their taxes: “I don’t care what it is, I don’t care what the need is, what the amount is, what the cost is, I’m a no.”
Ulan broke down numbers on the $75 million bond responses.
“You see 75 percent of your parents supporting the bond. You would expect that,” Ulan said. “You’d like that to be a little bit higher.”
Eleven of the respondents turned out to be MUSD employees, and 73 percent favored the bond.
Of those polled, 51 percent were men. Ulan said women are usually the majority. Sixty-four percent had lived in the district at least six years.
When respondents were asked their opinion of the current level of property tax, 58 percent said it is just about right, and 33 percent said it was too high. Ulan said the latter was “a little bit of a concern but not an alarming number.”
Of those polled, 154 were Republican, 133 were Democrat and 114 were independent or something else. Among the GOP, 50.6 percent were in favor. Among Democrats, support was 67.7 percent.
The gender gap, Ulan said, was a surprise, with men a little more in favor of the bond (59.7 percent) than women (56 percent). “Typically, women seem to be more supportive of school funding.”
Respondents also indicated the presence of an oversight committee for the bond funds would make them more supportive (60 percent). Knowledge of the Facilities Board’s intention to purchase land for a new high school made 50 percent more likely to support the bond.
“There isn’t a district in the state doesn’t that have capital needs,” Ulan said. “This isn’t Maricopa problem. This is a statewide problem. There aren’t a lot of districts in the state that are growing like you.”
After providing the additional information to voters who had already indicated support for a $76 million bond, that support fell from 58 percent to 55 percent.
“The challenge is, Maricopa is primarily a residential community,” Ulan said. “That means homeowners foot a disproportionate percentage of the tax increase when you’re looking to go out for bond and override elections.”
Ulan said historically bonds are easier to pass than overrides because voters understand the issues of capital projects like buildings and transportation.
For next budget cycle, the district’s estimated capital budget is $2.4 million, with $2.3 million in recommended projects. That leaves $167,034 in reserve.