Texas City Independent School District officials face a predicament.
They want to measure opinions among registered voters about how the district should prioritize spending money raised through a bond issue that could be called for as early as May.
Toward that end, they have hired a company to call registered voters in the district with questions about school facilities.
The survey is a smart move. The idea is to ask the people most likely to vote in a bond referendum what projects they would and would not support.
As we understand the method, the callers will ask a series of yes or no questions about various projects that could be included in a bond proposal.
If the survey collects enough information, it may give district leaders and members of a facilities assessment committee, made up of residents, a good idea about what voters are willing to support, and, just as importantly, what they aren’t willing to support.
That information would be very helpful in drafting the bond proposition that voters are most likely to approve.
Doing that is in everybody’s best interest.
Bond referendums are just inevitable for government entities, public school districts especially. There’s nothing even remotely unusual or dubious about them. They involve money, taxes and politics, however, so they can sometimes be divisive.
They also cost money and they require a substantial investment of time and effort by district administrators, board members and the community volunteers serving on the assessment committee.
The absolute worst-case scenario for any school district is to invest all that into a bond proposition that voters are not going to support.
The survey is important for at least one other reason as well. One of the most common criticisms from opponents of bond propositions is that whatever district called the vote didn’t gather enough community input before doing so.
Sometimes, that’s a valid criticism, but a lot of times it’s just a handy argument built around an unprovable assertion.
What the Texas City school district is attempting to do with this survey is gather that important community input.
It’s up to the community, of course, to do its part in that process.
Here’s the predicament: Telephone surveys once were much easier to conduct than they are now. The phone was something that sat on a table or hung from a wall at home; when it rang, people answered, pretty much without fail.
After years of incessant telemarketing and with the invention of cellphones and caller ID, those days are done. District leaders have a valid concern that many people who would contribute useful information to the survey won’t answer the calls.
They tried to arrange things so that the calls would be identified as coming from TCISD, but that apparently would be against the law.
Unfortunately, they can’t even say what phone number the calls will come from, probably because a computer automatically assigns various phone numbers to the outgoing calls.
What they do know is that the calls will come from a number with a 409 area code.
So, we urge Texas City voters to put their usually reasonable skepticism about calls from unfamiliar numbers on the hook for the next week or so.
If you get a call from a 409 number, answer it. Doing so may give you the opportunity to participate in an effort that is extremely important to the community’s future.
If the call isn’t about the bond survey, just hang up.
• Michael A. Smith