Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 20, 2013

Forum guests weigh in on TCAPS bond


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Supporters and opponents of Traverse City Area Public Schools' recent failed bond proposal discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the plan at a public forum.

About a dozen community members attended the event and shared thoughts with TCAPS Board of Education members and administrators. Some common threads surfaced as individuals took turns talking about the $100 million bond question that lost by roughly 7,000 votes in November.

The bond 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, asked for too much from voters at the wrong time, several forum participants said. It also failed to highlight the district's most urgent needs.

"It didn't define what needed to be done," said John Roth, who voted against the bond. "It looked like everything needed to be done."

Many of the forum guests identified the Central auditorium project as a particular sticking point. They said TCAPS didn't fully explain why the auditorium was necessary, or why the community would benefit from its construction.

Several people suggested the district should break the bond question up in to smaller parts so people could vote to fix up decrepit elementary schools or support funding for technology without supporting the auditorium project.

TCAPS could also prioritize its most urgent needs instead of grouping multiple projects in to a 10-year time frame.

Michelle Goetz-Grahl, whose daughter attends TCAPS' Montessori Elementary at Glenn Loomis, said people are more likely to support major capital projects with shorter timelines.

"A 10-year time frame when your kid is in third grade is hard to think about," Goetz-Grahl said. "Anything much more than a three-year time frame is hard. You went big, but I think you needed to go fast, too."

Board of Education Treasurer Erik Falconer and Vice President Julie Puckett thought the forum provided valuable feedback, especially from the bond's opponents.

"Everyone had real reasons for voting no," Falconer said. "What we find is that many people who voted no wanted to vote yes."

The district is holding another public forum on the subject tonight at 6 pm at Traverse City East Middle School.