With the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) considering a pair of bonds to fund separate school facilities improvement districts (SFID) for both Santa Monica and Malibu, it appears residents in both communities would support new taxes.

Santa Monica’s bond seems most likely to pass, with 66% support from voters while Malibu’s bond faces uncertainty in its current state with only 52% support from its community members surveyed. The district is considering a $485 million bond for Santa Monica and a $250 million bond for Malibu. Lowering the bond amount to $150 million in Malibu increased support to 62%.

District staff polled the communities to gauge interest in a bond to further improve their respective schools, asking residents what they’d like prioritized if a bond were passed.

Paul Goodwin of Goodwin Simon Strategic Research conducted the survey, saying there was a “great deal of interest from the community” in regards to survey questions. Goodwin and his staff were able to survey 433 voting members of the Santa Monica community and 90 of Malibu’s. Goodwin said Malibu’s reduced sampling size is due to a smaller amount of voters and difficulty in getting interviews.

Voters were contacted in three ways for survey fielding: text message with a link to the survey, email with a link, and direct phone calls.

Topics in the survey included asking voters to prioritize bond use options such as improving arts and music program, upgrading school security, improving fire safety, and improving disabled access.

Voters were also asked to rate SMMUSD job ratings, with 50% of Santa Monica respondents giving an “excellent/pretty good” rating. Respondents who identified as Santa Monica parents were more favorable with 60% listing “excellent” while only 32% of Malibu residents gave an “excellent” rating.

In rating the job the district has done spending funds from past bonds, Santa Monicans gave a 32% “excellent/pretty good” rating and more than a third of voters saying they “can’t rate” the job. Santa Monica parents were at 32% approval and 27% unable to rate. In Malibu at 16% gave an “excellent” rating with about a third saying they couldn’t rate the job.

“Obviously there’s a correlation between ratings and support,” Goodwin said. “This shows you the more you can demonstrate good use of past bond money, the more supportive supporters get.”

He added that members of the community that “have no idea how the district spent previous money” are “actually pretty supportive of the new bond,” noting that these community members are newcomers or residents that don’t pay much attention to local politics.

Although there’s a disparity in approval numbers for Santa Monica and Malibu, both communities had the same concerns — both felt fixing leaky roofs, removing hazardous materials, and improving STEM programs were of top priority, as well as finding commonplace that the communities’ tax dollars “don’t go to Sacramento,” that bond money is locally raised and locally spent.

Goodwin said if passed, the bond(s) would cost about $2 per month from voters, a figure “voters were enthusiastic about.”

The Board will have until around August 10 to make a decision in regards to the bond and staff will spend the remainder of the time working on issues of consensus and advocacy.

After the presentation, the Board unanimously passed an intent to form an SFID for Malibu.

angel@smdp.com

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