Would you support a school levy? How much could you afford? What are your thoughts on the Lakewood City Schools?
These are a few examples of the questions being asked of Lakewood voters.
On Wednesday night, a campaign began to randomly call 400 homes in Lakewood, asking residents (with landlines) to take a 15-minute survey to get their input on a new levy.
Superintendent Jeff Patterson said that a new levy is “inevitable.” Now, he said, the district must figure how much voters could afford — especially given the current economic climate.
“I know it’s a difficult financial time for all of us — for consumers, for businesses, for the city of Lakewood,” he said. “We need to be the best stewards of the public’s money.”
In addition to the surveys, the district will also host a series of focus groups.
“It’s a survey that this district has typically done leading up to a ballot issue to determine what the voters are thinking and feeling, to see what they can do and what they can’t do,” he said, adding that the district uses an agreement with the county to help pay for the 15-minute phone calls.
Each one is a little different, Patterson said. For example, one resident may be asked if 3 mills would be affordable, while another resident may be asked if 5 mills is possible.
One Lakewood resident who took the survey, said afterward that the she was asked whether she could afford a 3.5 mill levy, with a .5 increase during the next five years.
She’s not sure.
“My property taxes for schools are already crazy,” she said.
During the next few weeks, the district will compile the data and analyze the results.
“We know these are difficult financial times for everybody, but that’s why we’ve been trying to downsize, to lessen that financial impact.”
In a series of recent community meetings, Patterson learned that the residents wanted to “maintain the level of academics that we have.”
“Through this last round of budget cuts, I believe we’ve been able to do that,” he said.
“Has it hurt? Yes. Are there things that we’d like to have back? Absolutely. My concern is if we have to make another round of budget cuts and we don’t have a new infusion of local dollars.”
“It could have an impact on everything.”