Information is essential to making good decisions. Knowing that, and realizing the Brainerd School Board has tough decisions to make in light of possible state education cuts we understand that board members want to conduct due diligence.
Along these lines, the Brainerd School Board Finance Committee last week considered whether the district should conduct a survey to determine what the public’s tolerance would be on the amount of a possible levy referendum. It was estimated a survey might cost about $10,000, depending upon how many questions were asked.
In these economic times, with readily apparent economic stress on families, spending thousands of dollars to gauge public sentiment would not be a wise expenditure. Rising gas prices, governmental deficits and a city (Brainerd) with the highest unemployment rate in the state of Minnesota for cities with more than 10,000 people are all solid indications that tolerance for any tax hike is low. That doesn’t mean Brainerd School District voters wouldn’t approve a levy, but it means a compelling case will have to be made for citizens to support any sort of tax increase. It might be that voters would be more receptive to a choice of two or more options if they’re asked to vote on a school levy referendum.
To spend $10,000 on a survey would be to play into the hands of critics who bemoan any non-classroom spending.
The best argument for not conducting a survey may have come from board member Chris Robinson who noted that the last time a survey was conducted the respondents’ views did not correspond with how they voted. In other words a survey may prove to not be a reliable tool.
We advise the board to listen to school district residents, but skip the survey.