Survey shows district residents continue to support their schools

September 27, 2019

Residents have weighed in to tell school district leaders what they think about their schools. About 400 residents from across the district took part in the random-sample phone survey, which was conducted to help the school board and administrators better understand the attitudes and opinions of its residents. The survey asked questions about the overall quality of education in the district, and also measured whether or not the community would support future referendums.

The survey was conducted by The Morris Leatherman Group, a public opinion research firm that has surveyed district residents on numerous occasions over the years. Participants were randomly selected to ensure an accurate representative sample of the community was provided.

The good news for district leaders is that support for the school district continues to be strong. As with past community surveys, respondents gave high ratings to the quality of education in the district, and strongly endorsed its teachers, curriculum, programming and classroom education. Overall, respondents also indicated a willingness to support a property tax increase for both operating dollars as part of a levy request and for building projects as part of a bond request.

With the current voter-approved operating levy set to expire in 2021, the district will need voters to approve a new referendum by November 2021 or risk losing $12 million in annual operating funds. Survey results indicate as many as 77% of respondents would support a property tax increase for the purpose of expanding social/emotional programs or maintaining current programs. More than 70% also supported expanding career pathways, enhancing safety and security, and maintaining or reducing class sizes. 

In addition, respondents indicated they would support additional funding for facility needs. About 70% of respondents stated they would support a property tax increase to expand existing schools in areas experiencing growth, 68% said they’d support renovation of older buildings, and 67% said they’d increase property taxes to ensure comparable facilities across the district. Residents did, however, indicate some opposition for construction of a new building in an area experiencing growth. A long-range facilities plan is currently being developed, which will likely indicate the need for an investment in facilities. Once a recommendation comes forward this winter, the board will need to decide if it wants to also ask voters to approve a bond referendum to pay for any building projects.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • There is a growing concern with respondents that the school district is not adequately funded. 64% of residents believe that budget challenges for the district are likely to get worse in the next few years.
  • Respondents identified the most serious issues facing the district as lack of funding, high taxes and large class sizes. 
  • The overall school district atmospherics, such as quality of education and financial spending, are stagnant. 
  • Respondents indicated growing uncertainty around district leadership. Job performance ratings for the school board dipped slightly, while those for administration rose slightly. Of note was the number of respondents who indicated they didn’t know or refused to answer.
  • Results show a growing property tax hostility among residents. While most of the hostility is directed at the county and cities/townships, it could impact a future referendum request as schools are the only entity required to ask voters for a tax increase.