Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 11, 2013

TCAPS to float two bond questions in 2013

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

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City’s public school district will ask voters to weigh in on two capital improvement ballot questions in November.

Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education members in a 6-0 vote Monday night approved a $35-million main bond proposal that includes reconstruction projects at Interlochen, Eastern and Glenn Loomis elementary schools, bus and technology replacements, and security upgrades at Central High School and West Middle School; and a second $13-million proposal for auditorium reconstruction at Central High School.

The proposals respectively would result in annual average tax increases of about $27 and $9 for owners of a $200,000 home.

Some board members supported an additional third ballot question for major renovations at Central Grade School, but that proposal was ultimately rejected in a 4-2 vote following extensive board discussion. Board Treasurer Erik Falconer did not attend the meeting.

“Even though we ended on a failed motion I do think that what we’ve authorized and agreed upon unanimously is very exciting for the district,” Kelly Hall, president of the TCAPS Board of Education, said during the meeting.

Board member Scott Hardy was the most vocal proponent of floating the third millage request for Central Grade School.

The roughly 80-year-old school needs major work, including, but not limited to, replacing the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. District officials estimate the full school makeover will cost about $26 million.

Hardy pointed to strong community support for that project and said the school is an integral part of the greater Traverse City community.

“This has got more community sentiment and support, and I need to get an answer from the community on where they stand with this,” Hardy said during the meeting.

“It’s all about a walkable, livable community, small-town character, the whole nine yards. Everything we sell is somehow represented by Central Grade School.”

Board Secretary Megan Crandall, who along with Hardy voted in favor of the Central Grade School proposal, pointed out the November 5 ballot will largely be dominated by City of Traverse City issues.

“This is an odd year with the city commission races and not much else on the ballot,” Crandall said. “So the overwhelming majority of people, I believe, who are going to come out and vote are going to be city residents. If ever there was a year to put something like this on the ballot, this is that year.”

Other board members worried a Central Grade School ballot question in 2013 would threaten the potential success of the other two proposals and pointed out construction work at the site would not begin for six to eight years.

Board member Gary Appel said the project should be revisited in the next two to four years.

“This board strongly supports the reconstruction of Central Grade School,” Appel said. “It’s all about timing.”

Hardy disagreed.

“I think we’re making a mistake but then again I will live with whatever we come up with as a consensus,” he said.

The two votes Monday night capped a nearly seven-month long review of why voters rejected TCAPS’ 2012 millage request by about 7,000 votes.

TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins said district officials and attorneys will go to work writing ballot language to bring back to the board for final approval before the end of August. Efforts to educate voters about the ballot questions and the district’s capital needs will start sooner.

“We will start putting together an education campaign now,” Cousins said.