TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County voters made at least one message abundantly clear.
An overwhelming majority of those who voted in an Aug. 6 special election said “no” to Northwestern Michigan College officials’ proposal to increase property taxes for more operational money, a 15-year pitch that would have generated $1.7 million this year.
But voters cited multiple reasons for NMC’s lopsided — 66 percent to 34 percent — defeat.
Traverse City attorney Dave Grunst said his vote was strictly about taxes.
“The taxes are just so high,” he said. “The school wants more, NMC wants more, and it all falls on the property owner.”
Yet it appears more was at issue than an outright rejection of taxes. Two other local millage requests gained approval on Aug. 6 — one for emergency services in Green Lake Township and another for repair and construction at Forest Area Community Schools.
NMC’s request for .4 mills slipped in front of three other impending property tax increase requests: two by Traverse City Area Public Schools and the other from the Grand Traverse County Road Commission. County voters will weigh in on all three in November.
NMC Board Chairman Doug Bishop said board members will have to analyze voters’ specific concerns and the effect on the community college.
“Immediately in the future it will slow down some of our technology acquisitions and it will make it more difficult to recruit talent to our specialty programs, but we’ll look at everything, and look at it immediately,” he said.
‘Below the radar’
The NMC board opted for a special election in August, and that decision will cost taxpayers and students about $68,000. Board members said they approved the earlier election, in part, to collect the higher property tax this calendar year.
But a Record-Eagle report in late July revealed the board could have achieved the same goal with a November election and without added cost. NMC President Tim Nelson learned of that option in late April, but failed to tell the board before its May vote to proceed.