Board gives president OK to plan for bond issue

The Southeast Community College Board of Governors passed a resolution Thursday authorizing College President Dr. Paul Illich to prepare for a potential bond issue that could be included on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The special meeting took place on SCC's Lincoln Campus.

The Board passed the resolution on a 10-1 vote, with Board member Don Reiman of Virginia voting no. Sometime prior to Sept. 1 the Board could decide whether to put the bond issue on the November ballot.

Last year SCC hired The Clark Enersen Partners of Lincoln to conduct a 10-year Facilities Master Plan for the College. The firm examined existing facilities at all SCC locations and presented its findings in late 2015. The plan calls for $508 million of construction, renovation and reconfiguring of SCC's locations in Beatrice, Lincoln and Milford, as well as six additional learning centers within the 15-county area outside of Gage, Lancaster and Seward counties.

SCC wanted to measure the level of support for a potential bond issue, and Research Associates of Lincoln was hired to conduct a telephone survey to measure the attitudes of registered voters living in SCC's 15-county service area.

The survey was administered Feb. 15-28. Survey questions covered topics related to awareness of SCC, attitudes toward SCC programs, general attitudes toward a bond issue, attitudes toward specific bond issue projects, voting on a bond issue, and demographics.

Research Associates' Brendan Wamstad-Evans presented the results to the Board.

"You should feel really, really good about these survey results," Wamstad-Evans said. "Fifty-two percent of respondents said yes they had attended an SCC class, and 67 percent said they had relatives who attended SCC classes. You do a great job serving your constituents."

Responses to the final question of the survey got the attention of Research Associates.

"Now that you know more about how the money would be spent, I'll ask again - If an election were held today, would you vote for or against a $369 million bond issue to improve Southeast Community College facilities across their 15-county service area, that would increase property taxes on a $100,000 home by an estimated $39 per year?"

Sixty-three percent said yes, 37 percent said no.

"Given that this hasn't been a heavy news item, that's a really strong voice of support from constituents in the service area," Wamstad-Evans said.

The second survey question was, "If an election were held today, would you vote for or against a $369 million bond issue to improve Southeast Community College facilities across their 15-county service area that would increase property taxes on a $100,000 home by an estimated $39 per year?"

Fifty-one percent were for, 34 percent were against, and 15 percent said they didn't know.

Research Associates said a sample of 1,202 randomly selected respondents provided results that are statistically accurate within an expected maximum error range of plus or minus 2.8 percent at a 95-percent confidence level. Completed interviews were from both cell phones and landlines.

The sampling consisted of registered voters in four primary groups: Gage, Lancaster and Seward counties, and the remaining 12 counties called a "superzone."

Responses on Question No. 23 by geographical area: Gage County - 55.8 percent for, 44.2 percent against; Lancaster County - 64.5 percent for, 35.5 percent against; Seward County - 55.3 percent for, 44.7 percent against; and Superzone - 59.9 percent for, 40.1 percent against.

Doug Evans and Barbara Derrick, who started Research Associates, also were in attendance.

"This was a well-designed poll," Wamstad-Evans said.

The 1,202 respondents were weighted to accurately reflect the actual number of people living in each of the four geographical areas studied.

"You want to accurately represent metropolitan and rural areas," Wamstad-Evans said. "You want to make sure you're sampling rural voters to ensure their voice is heard."

Among other survey findings:

·         79 percent of respondents agreed that SCC spends tax dollars wisely.

·         To the statement, "We can't afford any new projects because taxes are too high," 51 percent disagreed.

·         To the statement, "SCC is a popular choice for students due to the high cost of a university education," 93 percent agreed.

Eighty percent of survey respondents own their current residence. Nineteen percent said they own farm property in Nebraska. Forty-seven percent said they were Republican, while 38 percent said they were Democrat. Thirty-seven percent of respondents took the survey on a cell phone.

"The whole point of the survey is that we have a good understanding of the support that is out there," Illich said. "The last thing I want to do is recommend that the Board move forward if we don't have evidence of support. You want this survey to be solid. I did this for a lot of years. I came to the same conclusion. I feel very comfortable about this survey."

Illich said there were a number of steps the College would take to prepare for a potential bond issue, including hiring bond counsel and embarking on an information campaign. The total amount of a bond issue would be determined in the coming months, Illich said.

Sept. 1 is the deadline to place a bond issue on the November ballot.

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For more information contact:
Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information and Marketing
402-323-3401
sosterthun@southeast.edu