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April 18, 2013

TCAPS, Chamber discuss failed bond proposal

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools officials discussed last fall’s failed $100 million bond proposal with area business leaders.

TCAPS administrators and Board of Education members fielded questions and listened to comments from Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce members about the ballot proposal that lost by nearly a 60 to 40 percent margin of defeat.

Questions posed by Chamber members largely pertained to the message promoted by TCAPS ahead of the failed vote, and what the district learned during an extensive study of why voters rejected the proposal, which included several elementary school renovations, funding for technology and buses, major reconstruction at Central Grade School and an $18-million auditorium project at Central High School.

”Knowledge is power. You have to be able to identify what the objections are,” Chase Bank regional President Doug Wolf said. “And it really is about your message.”

Wolf said TCAPS needed to use “allies” to help promote the millage, and he identified two groups who can help tell the district’s story: TCAPS parents and employers that value quality education when looking for new regions to expand business.

Tony Anderson, general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative, said the district’s message last fall revolved around homeowners but ignored businesses.

”To get businesses’ support, you need to say how this affects businesses, and that wasn’t done,” Anderson said. “You just assumed we’d blindly follow along.”

DTE Energy Regional Manager Steve Rawlings said certain “hot-button” words, like language about building the new auditorium at Central, turned off uninformed voters.

”Can’t we just stay away from the words that get people all fussed up?” Rawlings said.

The discussion concluded with Rawlings voicing his commitment to TCAPS.

“The business community here in the region gets that investment in education is the best investment their businesses can make in terms of dividends to come,” Rawlings said.

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