School Board: Community survey approved

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Several Red Wing School Board members had a change of opinion at Tuesday's meeting on the prospect of a community survey as the district faces a second consecutive referendum election year.

Don Lifto, a representative from Springsted Financial, the district's financial adviser, spoke to the board about the tangible outcomes the district could receive from a community survey.

"The district has needs and wants and there is a cost associated with that," Lifto said. "The community has values and priorities as well, and they also have collectively some aggregate willingness to pay."

By aligning the operating levy referendum's cost and purpose with the values of community members and their readiness for tax increases, Lifto said the district would have a better chance at a successful November election outcome.

Cost vs. outcome

Upon approval from the board, Springsted would deliver phone survey results in an eight-to-10-week window from 300 stratified samples, a more focused group than a random sample of registered voters.

Stratified samples, Lifto said, are more expensive than a simple random sample, but the results deliver a better snapshot of the entire community.

"With stratified samples, you have a pool of people to interview where the demographics of that group mirror the demographics of everybody," he said.

Board Chair Arlen Diercks said he originally opposed the idea of spending money on a survey, but can see the benefit of a survey this specific.

"We can put out questions that could connect our community. It's essential to get a handle on what the community feels about us," Diercks said.

Lifto gave an estimated cost of $13,500 to $15,750.

Board member Bethany Borgschatz also felt a turnaround like Diercks.

"It is hard to justify spending money when we want to ask for money, but the bottom line is, we need this (referendum) to pass," Borgschatz said. "Will it pass without doing a survey? Possibly, but it will be really beneficial to know how to market and finalize the (ballot) questions."

Board member Janie Farrar took a different stance.

"The voice in Red Wing has been anti-survey these days and I worry about that negative impact," she said. With the district's strategic plan not being approved until April, Farrar said she felt rushed with potential survey questions.

Board member Mike Christensen said the price tag of the survey is worth the accurate representation of the community's opinion.

"We need as much information as we can get," he said. "This is not an expense, it's an investment."

With Board members Pam Roe and Steve Anderson absent, a motion to approve the survey passed 4-1. Farrar cast the opposed vote.

The district will hold an operating levy referendum election on Nov. 6, 2018.