Wednesday, September 19 , 2018, 7:10 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Santa Barbara School Board Funds Opinion Polling For 2016 Facilities Bond Measure

Pedro Paz, who is serving his first term, taking over as board president

Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash replaces the name plaque for new Board of Education President Pedro Paz. Gayle Eidelson, left, is the new vice president.
Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash replaces the name plaque for new Board of Education President Pedro Paz. Gayle Eidelson, left, is the new vice president.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Since Santa Barbara school board members are still unsure whether they want to pursue a capital facilities bond campaign in 2016, they approved a contract this week for opinion polling but delayed action on a campaign consultant agreement.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District last passed a $110 million bond effort in 2010 with Measures Q&R, which funded facility improvements and new assets such as elementary school libraries, roof and pavement rehabilitation, and replacing playground equipment.

Items on the remaining priority list add up to more than $800 million, but the district has no intention of going for bonds that large, said Superintendent Dave Cash and school board members.

“We understand that the district’s recently-finalized Facilities Master Plan includes total costs of more than $848 million,” reads the FM3 contract proposal.

“FM3 is proud to be the only opinion research firm that has provided polling for successful school district general obligation bond measures of this size for districts,” some of which passed multiple bonds to get to that amount.

There’s “absolutely no way” the district would even test opinion polling for bonds of $800 million, $400 million or $300 million, Cash said.

Opinion polling will focus on the district’s existing priority list, such as replacing portable classrooms with permanent buildings.

Board of Education members unanimously approved the FM3 agreement for telephone and Internet surveys, but excluded the focus group element which would have cost $19,000 for two groups of 10 people each.

The remaining contract will cost about $31,000.

Board member Monique Limón said she wanted to get a sense of how the district’s bond measure may fare on the ballot with potentially 15 other initiatives and a state school facilities bond.

A second agreement under consideration was for a CliffordMoss LLC feasibility study and campaign consulting contract, including guidance for fundraising and ballot language.

That role has been filled by community advocacy groups in the past — the Santa Barbara Education Foundation handled campaigns for the parcel tax measures in 2008, the 2010 general obligation bond measures and the parcel tax measures in 2012.

Districts can’t campaign, only give out information, and board members had qualms about using public money for a bond campaign consultant before it was even decided to pursue a 2016 bond.

During public comment, Lanny Ebenstein, who had supported opinion polling, called the CliffordMoss contract undemocratic and premature and some board members agreed.

“This is a battle plan and Santa Barbara is not a battle location; I think Santa Barbara City College learned that,” board member Ed Heron said. The district’s school bond campaigns need to be a grassroots effort, he added.

Cash, who announced Monday he will retire on July 10, also facilitated the switch to a new board president Tuesday, passing the gavel from Heron to Pedro Paz.

In the coming months, the five-member board will have to pick a replacement for the leader who Heron called “a man with vision.”

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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