Don’t Play Bond Measure Roulette

Don't Play Bond Measure Roulette

Know where voters stand before sending a bond measure to the poll.

More local governments are thinking about running bond measures to pay for improvements to roads and buildings or for new construction now that the economy has improved, new jobs created are up and unemployment rates have declined.

However, just because people are going back to work and are a little more optimistic doesn’t mean voters will approve funding measures proposed by school districts, cities, counties and transportation departments.

Taxing districts should consider using surveys to find answers to four basic questions before approving a bond proposal for voter consideration.

What is the reputation of the district or local government?

Districts and local governments that have good reputations for getting results and managing tax dollars are more likely to gain voter support for funding measures. Don’t send a funding measure to the polls if voters don’t trust the district. It is a recipe for failure.

What is the level of support for the measure?

The elephant in the room is, will voters support the funding measure or not. But that information is easy to find out, ask them. Design a question that is similar to wording voters will see on the ballot. Include the dollar amount. Don’t make arguments for or against the measure in the question. A bond measure has a good chance of winning if support in the survey is 10 points higher than the majority needed to pass the measure.

How will the new projects or facilities benefit the community?

Voters want to know how projects will solve problems and benefit the community. More precisely, voters want to know, “What is in it for me?” Test eight to 10 benefits that will result from funding approval and choose the two or three that are most likely to increase and maintain support for use in communication about the measure.

Who supports the measure?

All measures need a base of support to pass. It is parents for school districts, riders for pubic transportation and commuters for road improvements. A measure won’t pass if there is no strong support for it among one or two key demographic groups.

Knowing the lay of the political landscape is critical to the success of funding measures. Surveys help decision-makers create a road map for success or determine if it is better to wait and ask for funding at a later date.