Survey: Voters support bond

GLENDALE — A majority of voters would support extending the Measure K school bond to bring in more money for cash-starved Glendale Unified, even if it were to be spent on salaries or top shelf projects like a new gym, according to a survey released this week by the district's consultant.

If those crème expenses were removed from the scope of the bond extension, voter support jumped from 59% to nearly 65% approval, said Tim McLarney, president of True North Research, the survey firm hired by the school board.

If extended, Measure K would preserve property tax levels to supplement reduced state funding and maintain plans to upgrade school classrooms and facilities.

District officials have said revenue from a bond extension or parcel tax would be tied to programs or construction costs, not personnel expenses, which were included in the survey to gauge negative opinion.

But even with a grassroots group organized by parents to support a parcel tax extensions, school district officials have been wary of putting it on the ballot given the budget pinch being felt among residents during the economic downturn.

"Many of the pieces we want to see in place for a measure to be successful are in place," McLarney told board members on Tuesday. "You have a very solid base line support for the measure, you have popular projects … and you have a number of arguments that resonate."

Extending the 1997 general obligation bond would maintain property tax rates for a fixed number of years into the future, phasing in around 2017 as income from the current lifespan of the bond starts to drop off. Successful passage requires 55% voter approval.

Surveyors presented several questionnaires during the summer. One featured arguments against the bond extension based on the economic recession, administrative mismanagement and bloated public employee salaries and pensions. Even with negative framing of the extension, 59% of respondents said they'd approve it in the 2011 April election, McLarney said.

"The real telling question is after these negatives, what happens to your support," he said. "It ticks down, but…you're still at that threshold needed for passage."

District officials submitted an insolvent budget to county regulators in June, and continue to project deficit spending through 2012-13.

In October, the Board of Education is expected to discuss the feasibility of putting a bond extension on the 2011 ballot, Supt. Dick Sheehan said.

"I would say, it appears likely we'll be moving forward, but there's a lot of work ahead of us," he said.

SOS Glendale, the parent group that formed to support a parcel tax, will begin redesigning its website and bringing members to support a potential bond extension campaign, said Chairman Edward Bash.

"I think it's a good solution to a long term problem, and I think it makes sense for everybody, the homeowners, the parents, the school district — I think it's a good way to go," he said. "I think the danger is everybody is going to become complacent and think all the [financial] problems are solved, but they're really not."

School board Vice President Joylene Wagner said she feared skeptics might vote against the extension, thinking the bond and ensuing tax rise were too recent to be successfully extended.

"A generation of students have passed through in this time…in case someone thinks, 'Oh, you just got the money,'" she said.

The bond was the largest ever in Glendale Unified and built Cerritos, Columbus, Edison elementary schools, and Daily High School, said Ken Kaplan, chairman of the Measure K Advisory Board Committee.

"By any measuring stick or metric you look at, it came in early, returned money to taxpayers, four new schools were built, and every school got touched or repaired," he said. "I think it was a huge success."

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