Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 19, 2013

TCAPS seeks community input as part of bond review

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Community members can share thoughts on Traverse City Area Public Schools' failed 2012 bond proposal and the district's longterm capital needs at two forums this week.

District officials studied TCAPS' recent $100 million bond question since voters in November rejected the measure by nearly 7,000 votes -- a roughly 60 to 40 percent margin of defeat.

An online survey appeared on the district's website this week and is available through April 1, while this week's forums offer voters, taxpayers and others a chance to personally voice their opinions to Board of Education members.

"You get an opportunity at these forums to ask questions, to probe a little deeper," board member Scott Hardy said. "Also people can answer questions in more detail."

Tonight's forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Traverse City West Middle School. Wednesday's forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Traverse City East Middle School.

Early feedback suggests community members supported reconstruction projects at Interlochen Elementary School, Eastern Elementary School and Montessori Elementary at Glenn Loomis; more money for school buses and technology upgrades; and a new auditorium at Traverse City Central High School, TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins said.

But the overall $100-million price tag of last-year's bond was too high, and many voters thought the proposed 1,200-seat Central auditorium was too expensive for TCAPS to fully fund, Cousins said.

Area residents appear more supportive of a less-expensive auditorium at Central, something similar to the 600-seat auditorium at Traverse City West Senior High School. That project's price tag would be about $12 million, compared to the $18-million auditorium project voters shot down in November.

Cousins cautioned that those guidelines could change based on this week's forums, the results of two focus groups expected to be released this week, the online survey and an upcoming random phone survey of 400 registered voters living within TCAPS' boundaries.

"We have a long way to go on this review before we can present something to the board," Cousins said.

TCAPS will pay Lansing-based policy group Public Sector Consultants about $9,400 to conduct the phone survey.

The Board of Education will decide whether to float a 2013 bond proposal by mid-May.

TCAPS officials need to stress how capital improvement projects affect the whole community, not just families with students in the district, if that happens, Hardy said.

"We need to articulate more clearly and make people realize there is a domino effect to everything we do here," Hardy said.

Board of Education Vice President Julie Puckett agreed.

"The bond impacts the ability of the district to do its job well," she said. "The district's reputation and how well we educate our kids impacts the community as a whole."