MARICOPA — A small majority of Maricopa residents would support a $75 million bond issue for a new high school, according to a new survey.
The survey was presented at the Maricopa Unified School District governing board meeting on Wednesday by Paul Ulan from Phoenix-based Primary Consultants. The governing board hired the firm to assess the chances a bond would be approved in a special election if the district decides to pursue one. The money would primarily be used to fund a second high school, while also providing maintenance to existing schools.
The survey was done over the phone with 401 high-likely voters over the course of six days with a 5.5-percent margin of error. The results showed 58 percent responding “yes” when asked if they would support a $75 million bond, with 31 percent responding no. Ulan explained that 60 percent is the “magic number” in this type of survey, since approval tends to drop as elections near.
A follow-up question was asked for those answering no, if they would support a $50 million bond. Of those people, 15 percent said they would support that lower amount, with 56 percent still responding no. The same process was done with a $35 million bond. At that point, 70 percent of respondents had expressed support for at least one of the amounts.
Ulan said a challenging factor lies with Maricopa being a primarily residential community. Homeowners foot a disproportionate percentage of tax increases during the circumstance of bond and override elections, since there aren’t as many businesses paying their share.
A cross reference showed that higher support came from those with children, with 75 percent voting yes, though Ulan expressed that he would like to see the number higher. An interesting factor for the respondents with no children showed that 55 percent voted yes, which Ulan described as an “encouraging number.”
Following the initial questions, the survey asked several others expanding the plan, including if the voters would be more likely to vote yes by implementing a citizens’ oversight committee. Sixty percent answered yes to the modification.
Following those questions, when the respondents were asked once again if they would support the $75 million bond, the number of supporters went down by 3 percent.
“We lost a little bit of support, which is a little concerning.” Ulan said. “Typically you want to grow. We didn’t.”
When asked prior to the bond questions, 58 percent of the respondents answered that the current property tax amount is just about right.
Many of the voters were not aware of the plan to build a new $83 million high school in the district. Ulan described this as an “opportunity, rather than negative.”
Ulan concluded the presentation by expressing that this is not a unique issue that only applies to Maricopa.
“There is not a district in the state that doesn’t have capital needs. This isn’t a Maricopa problem. This is a statewide problem,” Ulan said.
Although the capital needs are a statewide issue, the growth of Maricopa is something unique to the plan.
“There is not a district in the state that is growing like you and have some of the circumstances that you have,” Ulan said.
The board will soon have to decide whether to go out for a bond election in November, and if so, how much they will be asking for. Should they go out for a smaller amount, it would increase the chances of going out for another bond just a couple years later for another small amount.