Survey suggests support for vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The school board announced that they will come to a decision Thursday on whether to put a levy referendum on the general election ballot this fall. The meeting was announced shortly after the board was given a presentation on the results of a referendum survey performed by a consulting firm that specializes in school referendum analysis.

&uot;We had an opportunity to meet with a consultant that had completed a survey for the district,&uot; said Ken Peterson, the chairman of the Albert Lea School Board. &uot;It was something we did in order to get a feel for the community. We feel that it would have been useless to have a referendum without getting some kind of indication that the community wanted one.&uot;

The survey, conducted between July 31 and Aug. 9 by the Center for Community Opinion consulting firm, was conducted by 300 random telephone interviews with registered voters in the Albert Lea School district. It showed that almost 56 percent (with a 5 percent margin of error) of registered voters in the school district would support a referendum. This was the final number resulting from the survey after producing three benchmark question surveys.

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Benchmark questions are those which help a consulting firm to narrow their findings and get more detail. The first benchmark question was one which simply asked if one would favor a levy referendum. The second asked the same question after informing the interviewee of the possible consequences of a failed referendum. The third, and final benchmark combined the first two questions and informed the interviewee of the cost of the referendum per household.

The results of the survey after the third benchmark indicated that 55.9 percent of people would favor a referendum, 35.8 would oppose one and 6.4 percent are undecided.

&uot;I’m encouraged by the numbers that we got from the presentation tonight,&uot; said district Superintendent Dave Prescott in reaction to the survey’s results. &uot;I do feel that the survey helps us understand where the community is at.&uot;

The consulting firm concluded that passing a referendum was feasible. Prescott reacted, &uot;I feel a little better about it than I did probably two or three weeks ago.&uot;

The board will hold a special meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m. to vote on whether to put a referendum on the ballot.

The district placed a referendum on the ballot last November, but it failed by a wide margin and the next month, the district approved $1.1 million in budget cuts, laying off teachers and trimming elective classes, extracurriculars, arts programs. The school says its fund shortages are mainly due to declining enrollment, which means less state funding.