After a city-wide survey of Sherman voters yielded promising results, the Sherman Independent School District’s Citizens Advisory Committee finalized its proposal for a $308 million district facility overhaul Monday. The committee plans to present the proposal to the district’s board of trustees next week.
The publicly staffed committee, comprised of Sherman residents, educators and elected officials, reviewed the results of the survey and found a majority 63 percent of the city’s voters will likely support the multimillion construction plan when it comes up for vote in a May bond election.
Vice President of Operations at Baselice and Associates Matt Gamble presented the research firm’s findings at Monday night’s CAC meeting.
“This is really a supportive district and this is one of the better survey results we’ve ever had come back,” Gamble told the committee members.
Baselice and Associates was commissioned by the district to survey voting-age Sherman residents in regard to their opinions of the building project and whether they would support it. The organization surveyed 300 residents of varying ages and demographics by telephone in mid-December and drew 60 percent of its polling pool from residents living on the west side of U.S. Highway 75 and the remaining 40 percent from the east side. Gamble said an examination of past voting data showed west side residents tend to turn out at the polls more often than their neighbors to the east.
Surveyed residents were asked for their opinions both before and after detailed information regarding the primary desired bond package was shared by the survey teams.
The survey results indicated that 63 percent of respondents would vote in favor of the $308 million bond, while 32 percent said they would vote against its passage. The remaining 5 percent said they were unsure of how they would vote.
Two bond packages of lesser amounts — $160 million and $220 million — were also proposed, but both garnered less favor than the $308 million proposal.
Respondents were largely split down the middle on the matter of supporting a renovation of the existing Bearcat Stadium or the construction of a brand new one. When asked whether they supported the renovation, 56 percent voted yes and 40 percent voted no. When asked for their support of a brand new stadium, 51 percent voted in favor and 47 percent voted against it.
Residents appeared more certain on the matter of building a new high school versus renovating the old with, with 62 percent favoring a new school and 33 percent supporting a renovation of the old.
Gamble said the support of the community was a positive sign, but cautioned the committee members not be complacent.
“That’s a good thing,” Gamble said of the support. “But don’t just kick your feet up and relax and feel like this is a slam dunk. Voters need to know what they get for the money.”
And when it comes to money, Gamble said voters aren’t so worried about the project costs, they’re focused on taxes.
“Usually the price tag is not the reason why people are against the bond,” Gamble said “It has to do with more basic feelings about not wanting taxes to go up.”
If the $308 million bond is passed in May, taxes will go up $23 for every $100,000 of taxable property value — the exact same rate for the other considered bond packages of $160 million and $220 million.
To help voters better understand the metrics of the $308 million bond package and where their dollars go, Superintendent David Hicks said the district will kickoff an outreach and education program like it has used before.
“Similar to our TRE process, we’ll have a directed and coordinated strategic communications plan that will involve face-to-face communication, social media communication,” Hicks said.
But with so many recognizable faces of the Sherman community in the room, Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Gail Utter encouraged the committee members themselves to go out and have face-to-face conversations with the residents and voters regarding the bond package.
“You’re going to be asked questions and you’re going to have the opportunities,” Utter said to the group. “We are the best people, the best individuals to go and take this information out into the community.”
The committee will present its recommendations to the board of trustees at its next meeting on Jan. 17.