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August, 2007 - SMAC in the News

Support is out there for school levy increase

Dana Yost

The more they know about it, the more likely they are to see the need. And right now, close to 60 percent of people who responded to a recent survey on the proposed Marshall School District operating levy say they see the need to increase that levy.

The results of the survey were released Tuesday by the grassroots committee that's behind building support for a levy.

While the actual size of the increase hasn't been determined yet - within the next week or so it should be - the goal is to put the levy before voters Nov. 6.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the results,“ said Roger Madison, co-chairman of the grassroots committee with Jeff Kruse. “They give us some optimism as we go into this process.“

The survey was put together by the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center and was mailed to about 4,000 homes in the school district last month.

More than 800 - or 21 percent - returned the surveys. That's considered very good for a mail-format survey, Kruse said.

The survey shows that 74 percent of respondents were aware the district was seeking a levy before the survey was distributed. But, in a number that pleased Kruse and Madison, 57 percent said that they've seen the need for an increase once they've seen the levy information.

That doesn't translate yet to a yes vote on the levy, but it indicates a majority see the reasons for a proposed increase, Madison said.

Voters would especially say yes if they are told specifically what the money would be used for, he said, so that's going to be one of the focuses of the ongoing campaign to educate voters about the levy.

“More than anything we need to educate them about what we'll be using every levy dollar for,“ Madison said. “We will be very specific about that.“

The survey showed continued support for three elements the existing levy - which will expire next year - currently covers: Everyday kindergarten, smaller class sizes and technology. All three would continue under a new levy.

Madison said the school administration also will talk about increasing safety measures and enrichment programs.

The survey also shows support for lifting the size of Marshall's levy closer to the state average, Madison said.

Marshall currently has a $200-per-pupil operating levy. The state average is $675.

“Most agree that Marshall should be near the state average,“ Madison said.

There was across-the-board demographic support for proposed increases of $300 or $500, and some support for an $800 increase.

Madison said the positive results of the survey also reflect the pride people have in their school system.

They continue to want a “quality school system that is the cornerstone of the community,“ Madison said.

To that end, the survey found that 50 percent of respondents believe Marshall has an "excellent" school system. Another way of looking at that, Madison said, is this response: When asked if Marshall has a below-average school, 82 percent disagreed.

Many of the survey respondents indicated above-average incomes and education backgrounds, which surprised Kruse and Madison. It also indicates to them that they need to target Marshall's new population of immigrants ahead of the vote, and also work with employers to get information on the levy into the workplace.

Mike Rich, the executive director of the SMAC, also urged the grassroots committee to continue to get its message to older citizens, “because they show the least support for the levy increase and are the most likely to vote.“

Younger respondents and families with children in the schools were more likely to support the levy, Rich said.

Rich also recommended the committee continue to stress that the operating levy is different than the facilities levy voters approved in 2003: The 2003 vote was for buildings and operation of those buildings. The operating levy is for classroom uses, Kruse said.

Madison and Kruse said they hope to have survey results posted on the grassroots committee's Web site soon, and plan to have information ready for residents for school open houses at the end of the month.

For further information, call 507-537-7102 or e-mail:

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