Survey shows strong majority of likely Denair voters would back $32 million school bond if it’s on the ballot

Nearly 70% of potential voters in the Denair Unified School District say they would support a school bond as long as it doesn’t raise current property tax rates, according to a survey taken in April.

School board trustees are considering placing a $32 million bond measure on the November ballot that would pay to modernize, upgrade or build new facilities, including classrooms, libraries, kitchens and restrooms.

Earlier this year, the board hired Godbe Research of Burlingame and TeamCivX of Orinda to survey likely voters within the district’s boundaries about their support for a school bond. Pollsters contacted 203 people by phone or online between April 10-17. Results of the survey were reported at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The poll found that 57.1% of respondents would definitely or probably support the bond measure, 30.7% would definitely or probably vote no and 12.3% were undecided.

More importantly, the level of support increased dramatically – to 69.8% saying they would definitely or probably vote to approve the bond – when it was explained that current property tax would not increase under the proposal. In that scenario, 17.9% would definitely or probably vote no and 12.3% were undecided.

“This is a critical piece of information for the type of bond measure you’re considering. It’s a very encouraging sign,” said pollster Brian Godbe in his Zoom presentation to trustees.

Added Charles Heath of TeamCivX: “When we introduce the information that this simply extends the current tax rate, the support is there. I think you have the makings of a successful bond measure, if you choose to move forward.”

It takes 55% to pass a school bond.

Trustees have until June 18 to determine whether to put the bond measure on this November’s ballot. They have a meeting scheduled June 13 to consider the matter. In the meantime, board members directed Superintendent Terry Metzger to continue to work with Heath and Godbe to educate potential voters about why the proposed bond is needed.

The $32 million measure would pay to:

  • Construct new classrooms, school library and cafeterias.
  • Modernize classrooms and improve learning technology.
  • Upgrade restrooms.
  • Improve student safety and school security.

Property owners would be taxed $30 annually per $100,000 of assessed value, raising an estimated $2.3 million per year. There would be a citizen oversight committee and annual audits. None of the money could go to administrative needs or salaries.

If it were to pass, the new bond would go into effect only after the current bond is paid off in 2026.

Here are some other key takeaways from the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 6.7%:

  • 54.7% of respondents were very favorable or somewhat favorable when asked if the district was providing a quality education. Only 17.6% were somewhat or very unfavorable. About a quarter didn’t know.
  • 43.6% were very favorable or somewhat favorable when asked to rate the district’s management of public funds. Only 17.4% were somewhat or very unfavorable and 38.9% said they didn’t know.
  • 64.2% agreed or strongly agreed that the district needs additional money. Only 16.6% disagreed or strongly disagreed and 19.2% didn’t know.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Extended Metzger’s contract by two years through June 30, 2028. Metzger voluntarily asked for no salary increase for two years. She will continue to be paid $204,197 annually and may receive the cash value of up to 15 vacation days per year (she earns 30).
  • Honored five retiring employees: Food service worker Carole Harlan, DECA bilingual secretary Maria “Lupe” Delgadillo, DECA teacher Tamara Sondeno, DHS special education paraeducator Maria Nichols and DHS teacher Craig Cumberland.
  • Recognized four Denair High students who have earned the State Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas — David Cervantes Martinez, Jonathan Coronel, Sherlyn Diaz and Eddie Verdugo. All have passed tests certifying they are fluent in English and Spanish.
  • Approved the construction of five shade structures – three at DECA and two at Denair Middle School – for a total cost of $1,041,263. One metal structure and two fabric awnings will be installed on DECA playgrounds for elementary and preschool students. Two metal shade structures will be built at DMS. All the work is expected to be completed before classes resume in August.
  • Accepted an impressive amount of grant money — $410,835 from the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant program to support career readiness courses at the high school; $205,179 as a Teacher Residency Capacity Grant to help the district develop a local pipeline of teacher candidates; and $100,000 in equipment assistance grant funding to be used by the Food Service Department.
  • OK’d a five-year contract with California State University, Stanislaus to provide teaching experience to one or more students in the university’s Teacher Training Program. The training will be 16 weeks for multiple subject and education specialist programs and a full academic year for the single subject program.
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