Hollister district officials review results from expansion survey

Trustees unanimously endorsed Superintendent Gary McIntire's plans for Calaveras School at this week's meeting.

In a presentation to the Hollister School District board Tuesday, the market and opinion research company EMC Research told members that 61 percent of Hollister voters would support a Proposition 39 bond in a recent survey.
The proposed bond would raise $39 million for campus renovations. The more the voters hear about the proposal, the more likely they’ll vote for it, said Ruth Bernstein, a principal for the research company.
In November, the Hollister School District followed in the footsteps of San Benito High School by deciding to place a bond measure on a June or November ballot in 2014. The measure would raise $30 per $100,000 of assessed property values. A decision as to when to place measure on the ballot, whether in June or November, will be decided by mid-March.
“What voters want is for schools to get better,” Bernstein said. “There’s an awareness that schools can be better.”
The firm conducted phone interviews with 402 Hollister residents between Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 for the survey.
Of those 402 residents, 21 percent had kids in schools. Of those, 71 percent said they would support the bond, according to data broached at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We need to know whether or not this is something the community would support,” said Gary McIntire, the superintendent of the Hollister School District.
He said the district also hired a firm, Davis Demographics, to look into the impact of new housing and families moving into Hollister on schools, and if and when the school would need to expand.
“We’ve got some more information to gather,” he said.
The buildout of any new construction would be three to four years, McIntire said in November.
Bernstein said she would recommend a November ballot measure instead of a June ballot bond because past elections show people are more likely to turn out to vote on the November ballot.
“We can identify parents and get them out to vote,” she said.
She said there is some “tax sensitivity” when the cost of the measure is raised.
About 52 percent would support the bond once they heard the cost. But support went up once they heard more about what the measure would do, she said. The threshold to meet on a bond measure is 55 percent support.
She said polling done for San Benito High showed about the same amount of support, and she does not believe voters would opt for one and not the other if both bonds were placed on the ballot at the same time. About 64 percent supported a San Benito High School bond, she said.
“I’m not completely afraid of being on the same ballot,” she said.
She said most people do not view this as a “competition” and view both school districts as important investments.
“The only concern I have is imposing this on a community with fragile incomes,” said school Trustee Elizabeth Martinez.
But she said getting information to the community and a strong campaign could change their minds.
“I think it’s something we’re going to be working really hard on to put in place,” she said.
Bernstein said the district should consult with a strategist before deciding whether to put the ballot on a June or November ballot.
“If you ask me, I would lean to November,” she said.
But quality education and better schools, in general, were on the minds of residents, Bernstein said, including whether to build new schools entirely.
“It’s not just about brick and mortars,” she said. “It’s also about better education.”

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