Case Study

Northern California School Parcel Tax Measure

Cotati-Rohnert Park USD

Background

Leading up the June 2012 election, the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District was facing some serious challenges. Since 2008, the State had cut 27% of the District’s budget, with $2 million in cuts looming the next year. Budget reductions prompted some extremely difficult decisions for the District, including closing three schools, laying off over 75 teachers, reducing salaries and benefits, and cutting days from the school year.

The District was unsuccessful in passing a parcel tax in 2005, falling short of the required 66.7% approval by just a few votes. With an administration committed to improving student achievement and preparing students for their futures, the District needed to secure a stable source of local funding.

Community polling showed that while passing a parcel tax would be a serious challenge, the support was there if the campaign were able to effectively and strategically communicate their messages. 

What We Did

Cotati-Rohnert Park USDTBWB examined historical voter trends to identify a target number of Yes votes that the campaign would need to secure in order to be confident in success come Election Day. In a large District with over 26,000 voters, the campaign implemented a comprehensive voter-communication plan, featuring a full direct mail campaign including both persuasive mailers along with mailers targeted to identified supporters reminding them to vote, multiple precinct walks, and eight straight weeks of volunteer phone-banking.

On Election Day, the measure passed with an approval rate of 66.89%, or by about 23 votes. Supporters turned out at a very high rate, which was the key to the campaign’s success. Vote-by-mail and senior voters—both highly targeted voter sets by the campaign—also turned out and were supportive at high rates.