If the Jordan School Board decides to take another crack at an operating levy and bonding referendum, it may enlist the expertise of a research firm to gather valuable input from voters regarding their priorities and tolerances.
On Nov. 5, voters rejected all three questions included in the $39.5 million referendum the school board put on the ballot. If approved, the referendum would’ve raised the district’s operating levy closer to the state average and approved building bonds for multiple projects, including a new early learning services building.
But school officials say the district’s needs haven’t changed, so they’re eyeing another run at a referendum — maybe as early as next November. One of the keys to succeeding at the referendum’s second shot, board members indicated at their Nov. 12 meeting, would be getting a better understanding of the electorate and giving them a greater voice in the project. In order to do that, they’re looking at the possibility of contracting with School Perceptions, a Wisconsin-based consulting firm that specializes in independent educational research, to conduct a community survey.
Sue Peterson, representing School Perceptions, told the board Monday, Nov. 25 that the firm sends a paper survey to all adults in the district, rather than relying on random sampling, to inform and gather the priorities, values and tax tolerance of voters. The survey can be filled out and mailed back, or residents can use the one-time access code on the survey to complete it online. Peterson said the survey is a critical piece of the community engagement process.
“People are more likely to support a plan, we believe, if they understand the plan and they feel they had a voice in creating the plan,” Peterson said.
Ultimately, the goal of the survey is to provide the district with figures indicating what levels of bonding and levy increases likely voters will support. Peterson said School Perceptions conducted research for 48 referendums last year and 46 passed. The two that failed, she said, didn’t follow their advice.
“We’ve got some formulas that we put the responses in and we can tell you with a high degree of predictability the likelihood of a particular project passing or not passing,” Peterson said.
The board also reviewed a proposal from Kraus-Anderson Construction for project planning services. The company, represented Monday, Nov. 25 by Tony Sjolander, frequently works with School Perceptions in referendum preparation. Sjolander previously worked with the school district on the successful 2014 referendum, when he was employed by DLR Group. Under the proposed agreement, Kraus-Anderson would be the construction manager if bonding measures are approved.
Kraus-Anderson’s planning services come with an $8,500 fee, paid after the completion of the project planning and pre-bond referendum services. Overall, the firm estimates about $30,000 in expenditures over the course of the pre-referendum work. Sjolander said the balance that payment is deferred until after project funding is secured by a successful referendum.
“It’s a flexible number,” Sjolander said. “At the end of the day if it turns out that you would have a decision from the community to go with only the levy, I would be happy to work with you on that as well.”
School Perceptions would bill the district as they complete work on four separate phases. The first phase, strategy development, would cost $1,100; the second phase, survey design, would cost $2,600; the third phase, survey administration, costs $2,900 plus printing and postage fees; the final phase, a written report, plan of action and online results access, costs $2,400. The total baseline cost of the work is $9,000. Optional services available for an additional fee include site visits ($900 per visit), paper survey data entry ($1.80 per survey), pre-paid postage envelopes ($0.05 each), non-English translation services ($60 per hour) and additional in-depth data analysis ($60 per hour).
Superintendent Matt Helgerson said companies offering similar research and planning services were priced in the same range. The school board requested that Helgerson gather proposals from other companies to compare services and costs.