District 51 tries to gauge support for mill levy override

Voters have until Aug. 5 to return a public opinion survey School District 51 sent to more than 32,800 homes late last week in hopes of learning how successful a mill levy override may be on the November ballot.

The survey asks voters if they would vote for a $14.5 million mill levy override if the school district asked for one in the Nov. 1 election. The survey also asks participants how they would prioritize restoring certain 2010-11 and 2011-12 budget cuts, including 80 lost teaching positions and five eliminated school days.

The survey will help the district’s school board decide whether to seek an override, according to District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland. Board members have to make their decision by mid-August.

The district will pay Denver-based municipal bond company George K. Baum & Co. to compile and analyze the survey results. The district hired the company to perform similar analyses when it was gearing up for bond issues in 2004 and 2008. Kirtland said Monday he did not know how much the firm will be paid.

Active registered voters living in District 51 boundaries received the 12-question survey less than a week after the district mailed a budget update flier to the same homes. One flier and one survey were mailed per qualifying household.

Kirtland said the cost of mailing the fliers and surveys, about 12 cents per mailer, was worth it because online participation for District 51 polls has been poor in the past. Postage was paid through the district’s general fund and cost less than a normal stamp because the pieces of mail were sent in bulk, he said.

“Whether we spent $2 to do this or $4,000 to do this, people would be critical,” Kirtland said. “But the right thing to do for folks in the community in a position where we have to seriously consider a ballot question is you have to make an investment to inform people and gather their opinions.”

Kirtland said the district also chose a mail survey in order to gather opinions from people without children in school and people who do not work for the district, people who would otherwise be easier for the district to communicate with through on-line features like Parent Bridge.


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