Survey: Majority supports college district bond

A majority of residents surveyed in the Coast Community College District support a potential 2012 bond measure for building repairs and job training, according to a poll financed by the district.

The district, which released the results last week, is ramping up its exploration of a bond that an initial ballot summary says would support the Orange Coast, Golden West and Coastline Community campuses, but not toward the district's administrative salaries or Sacramento.

The poll's preliminary numbers show that about 60% of voters surveyed would definitely, probably or are leaning toward voting in favor of a 2012 general obligation bond measure, said Richard Bernard, a research associate with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, during a Feb. 1 presentation to the district Board of Trustees.

"Now I look at these numbers and say this is doable, but it's a challenge," Bernard said. "You have a lot of soft voters, so it means you have to educate them so they understand why you need the money."

Because students' tuition goes to Sacramento and gets redistributed back to the district, "we want people to understand that this [bond] money will stay in the community," said district spokeswoman Martha Parham.

The district is considering $500 million to $700 million in bonds, said Chancellor Andrew C. Jones, but the cost estimates are still being calculated.

"It's a quite costly endeavor," he said. "But we think for us to be competitive, and to keep offering our students and our community what they need ... we have to keep investing in our physical plan."

Jones said he's not looking to institute state of the art, but rather "state of the market."

The bond is being considered to specifically address "expanding police, nursing, health-related careers and technical job training; upgrading computer technology; removing asbestos; meeting earthquake retrofitting and disability access requirements; improving educational resources for active military; and acquiring, constructing and repairing facilities, sites and equipment," according to the poll.

The board voted Feb. 1 to pursue putting the bond on the November ballot and moving forward with its exploration of the measure.

The district has until August to decide if it will go forward with the ballot measure, Bernard said.

The district hired Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates to conduct an initial poll that asked residents how they would vote on a bond measure, what they knew about the district and its three colleges, and how likely they are to vote in June and November.

The poll results show 57% of those surveyed would definitely, probably or are leaning toward voting yes for a $700-million bond.

The number increased by 1% to 58% for $575 million and went up to 60% at $395 million.

The Santa Monica-based company conducted telephone interviews from Jan. 15 to 19 with 755 residents likely to vote in November.

The board directed staff to look into a bond measure in October 2011.

Voters last approved a $370-million bond by 65% in November 2002 to finance facility and infrastructure improvements at the three colleges, including construction of Coastline's Le Jao Center in Westminster; OCC's Watson Hall, Fitness Center and library; Golden West College's Health Sciences and Student Health Services Building; and renovations to the district administrative offices.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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