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By Shawn Raymundo
Recent tracking polls to see how a regional bond measure to upgrade San Clemente schools would fare in the March 2020 election shows that support among the community’s voters remains on the bubble.
The polling data True North Research presented to the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees earlier this month has the potential bond referendum tracking about 54% to 55%—right on the line of the minimum threshold needed for a measure to pass.
“Support is kind of on the bubble,” True North President Tim McLarney summarized to the trustees. “It doesn’t say you’re going to win, it doesn’t say you’re going to lose. It could go either way.”
McLarney added that in order for the measure to pass, it’s going to require that CUSD double down on outreach and education efforts, including working with local officials such as city councilmembers.
“A poll like this isn’t a crystal ball,” he said later, noting that it’s essentially a “snapshot in time.”
“So that’s a reminder to us that you have to make smart decisions on how to craft this measure . . . so I would certainly encourage the rallying of the troops,” he said.
The results of the latest polling data was released a few weeks before the trustees are likely to determine whether to place two regional bond measures on the ballots for the upcoming Primary Election in March.
One bond measure would go before voters in San Clemente and Capistrano Beach to fix classrooms and educational facilities within the Southern School Facilities Improvement District, or SFID 2. The other proposed bond would encompass schools within Aliso Viejo, Dana Point and Laguna Niguel—collectively referred to as the Western SFID, or SFID 3.
Only voters in each of those districts would have a say in whether the respective bonds pass. And money raised from those bonds, if passed, would only support schools within the respective areas.
Both potential bond measures are expected propose a tax levy of $34 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.
The Southern SFID is expected to yield $113 million in proceeds. If voters in San Clemente pass that bond, more than $87 million of those funds would pay for classroom renovations and new buildings at San Clemente High School.
The Western SFID bond is expected to provide the district with $293 million in proceeds to renovate schools in that region. A large percentage of the funds raised from that bond would pay for upgrades at Dana Hills High School, Aliso Niguel High School and Niguel Hills Middle School.
For a bond measure to pass, it needs to receive a minimum of 55% approval from voters. In 2016, CUSD proposed its $889 million Measure M bond, but it failed, receiving only 45% approval.
This past February, True North Research surveyed likely voters in San Clemente. Based on what True North referred to as an “initial ballot test” in which a sample ballot question was posed to 671 San Clemente respondents likely to vote in the general and primary elections, the firm found that nearly 54% supported the bond this past February.
In True North’s tracking poll last month, 624 San Clemente voters were asked a similar “initial ballot question,” to which 53% said they would support a sample ballot measure that authorized $120 million in bonds, levying about $.03 per $100 of assessed value.
After providing participants with a series of positive arguments in support of the ballot measure, True North conducted second ballot tests during the February survey and follow-up tracking poll in September.
In the February survey, support for the bond measure during the second ballot test was 54.1%. In the September poll, it grew to 55%—right on the bubble of the threshold.
During both the February and September surveys, final ballot tests were also conducted, wherein participants listened to negative arguments against the bond. The results of the February survey had put support at 50.7%, while the tracking poll in September put it at 52%.
CUSD is expected to have the trustees approve the proposed bond measures during the board’s Oct. 16 meeting, officially calling for them to be placed on the March 3 ballots.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.