The Lompoc Unified School District is exploring whether to ask voters to approve a bond measure four years after they twice rejected similar efforts.
During Tuesday’s meeting, board members heard consultant Khush Gheyara, vice president at Caldwell Flores Winters, provide an overview of the process that could end with asking voters to approve a bond measure in November.
In April, the consultant will conduct a survey, collecting answers from a random sampling of voters, aiming to reach between 300 and 400 people via either phone calls or online questionnaires.
That survey’s purpose will determine perceptions in the community about the district and local schools — and ultimately, whether the bond measure should proceed toward the ballot.
“If there is a significant perception that something is wrong, something is not working and that’s a widespread perception in the community, we’re going to suggest you do not look at this November,” Gheyara said.
At that point, the recommendation would be for the district to undertake a public information campaign to address the perception in the community.
“Voters are not going to give you monies if they don’t believe in what you’re doing. I do not think that is going to be an issue in the district, but it’s clearly a question that we want to ask,” he said.
Questions during the survey will gauge support for various school improvement projects.
“We want to include only items on the ballot that a majority of the community already wants and would fully support,” he said.
The consultant will return in May to report on the survey results, projects proposed to be funded under by the bond measure, and with the tax rate.
He said 2022 might be a good time to seek a bond since it’s the final year of higher-level payments on the district’s prior bonds and the rate is expected to drop dramatically.
“It is our intent to stabilize the tax rate and not increase the tax rate on voters,” he added.
The principal and interest for bonds show up as payments on property taxes.
Once the information is prepared, the consultant will return in June with a resolution for the board to call for an election, he said.
“The resolution essentially will lay out the parameters of the bond program— what is the bond amount, what are the projects and what is it’s going to cost taxpayers,” he said.
If the district agrees to put a bond measure before voters, an independent campaign committee would form to educate voters and lobby for support.
They could have an uphill battle again. In addition to rising gas, food and other costs, the Lompoc school district’s administrators continue to draw sharp criticism.
Meanwhile, a spat with the district’s faculty will head to mediation next month after contract talks stalled and the Lompoc Federation of Teachers declared an impasse.
In 2018, the district twice asked Lompoc voters to approve a bond measure and twice saw the request denied.
In June 2018, Measure Q received 50.9% yes votes and 49.1% no votes. In November 2018, Measure E earned 52.89% in favor and 47.11% opposed. Both measures needed 55% voter approval to pass.
Two years earlier, Measure L received more than 58% voter approval but required two-thirds — or 66.7%.
The proposed bond measures ranged from $65 million to $79 million.
The district planned to try again in November 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the plan was shelved.
While the district could recycle its project list from four years ago since that work remains incomplete, administrators said it would need to be updated to reflect higher costs.
Like most school districts, Lompoc hopes to use the bond measure proceeds to match any funds from the state to increase the projects that can be completed.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.