Poll: Majority support school bond

All communities within Oregon Trail approve of upcoming ballot

If the November general election were to be held today, Oregon Trail School District voters would pass the $110 million to $125 million bond for a new high school, according to a recent scientific phone survey.

Between Feb. 8 and 13, public research firm The Nelson Report called around 5,000 households in the district regarding the bond measure. Out of the 375 people surveyed, 57 percent said they are in favor of a property tax hike to bankroll a new high school. Thirty-two percent were opposed, and 11 percent either were not sure or refused to answer.

The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

'A vast majority of people understand that the high school needs to be replaced,' said John Bromley, chairman of the school board. 'The community has obviously been talking about it. People who don't have kids in the high school still know it's unsatisfactory, and that's good.'

Proponents of a new high school were quick to celebrate the results.

'This was the strongest survey (in our favor) that's ever been done in this district,' said Kurt McKnight, a member of the Value Oregon Trail Education (VOTE) political action committee that is dedicated to promoting the bond. 'That in and of itself has got me pretty excited. It definitely shows that we can pass this bond.'

The Nelson Report, operated by campaign management firm Public Affairs Counsel, cost the district approximately $12,000. The survey revealed details about regional attitudes and pinpointed a number of issues surrounding the bond that will ultimately affect how people vote.

Respondents to the survey consisted of 48 percent men and 52 percent women. Voters in Sandy comprised 57 percent of respondents, with 57 percent in support of the bond. Boring voters made up 24 percent of the respondents, and 58 percent of those were in favor of the bond. Mount Hood voters comprised 19 percent of the respondents, and 53 percent of those favored the bond.

The support in the mountain communities was notable to Jeanne Magmer, owner and senior consultant with C and M Communications, who composed an analysis of the survey for the district. Magmer has worked with the district since the 1980s, having participated in previous bond campaigns and discussions between the area's small school districts as they were being merged into the Oregon Trail School District in 1997.

'I think the Welches community has changed,' Magmer said. 'When we went through unification, they were not happy about it. I think they've come to support the district and a new high school.'

A number of questions that respondents answered also centered on some of the features that a new high school might possess. Voter support rose to 66 percent if the school would include 'green' characteristics such as solar power, 68 percent if the school includes an auditorium large enough for drama, band, choir and community performances, and 74 percent if the school would provide improved vocational and technology programs.

'The technology and vocational programs rated quite high,' said Mark Nelson, president of PAC. 'Often times we don't necessarily test those, and many schools don't have those any more. I think that speaks very well for the district.'

Another question in the survey noted that the high school - which was constructed in 1934 and renovated or expanded seven times since then - is now approximately 200 students over capacity. Support for the new school among survey respondents rose 67 percent when they were informed of the overcrowding problem.

'I was pleased to see that the community clearly understands that overcrowding is an issue (and) the high school is inadequate,' Magmer said. 'You don't have to convince them there is a need.'

The survey also revealed some voter apprehension with how the district handles money. While 39 percent of respondents said they thought the district spent money wisely, 25 percent thought the district didn't and 36 percent were unsure.

'There still seems to be a little bit of concern about how the district spends money,' McKnight said. 'I think there's still a little bit of negative feeling results from the problems we've had at the past.'

The school board is not expected to adopt a resolution on a bond measure until summer, when a final price tag and tax rate will be set. In the meantime, members of VOTE plan to continue to promote the measure, register new voters and get everyone out to vote in November.

Bond proponents know it's way too early to claim victory.

'We know we still have a lot of work to do in terms of communicating with all the different populations,' said district Superintendent Shelley Redinger. 'It is going to the whole community working together for the bond.'

'VOTE is well aware that we don't want to peak now,' added Bromley. 'The time to peak is October.'

For more information, to inquire about scheduling a tour of Sandy High School or to view the complete survey results, visit www.oregontrailschools.com. For more information on VOTE, visit www.valueoregontraileducation.org.

Inside the numbers

• 48 percent rated the district operation and performance as pretty good and 9 percent as excellent.

• 32 percent rated the current high school building as fair and 36 percent as poor.

• 69 percent said they think the district's schools are overcrowded.

• 39 percent said they believe the district spends money wisely, 25 percent said they did not believe that, and 36 percent refused or said they were not sure.

Ages of voters polled in survey
Age rangePercentage of respondents