Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 26, 2013

Campaign raises, spends less

By MICHELLE MERLIN mmerlin@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A group working to support Traverse City Area Public Schools’ impending ballot measures has been less financially active this year than in the past.

TCAPS Citizens for Students, a group that’s been supporting school measures since 2007, raised and spent money to support two school ballot initiatives — one .2-mill fee that would raise $35 million for school improvements, and one .09-mill fee that would raise $13 million for a Central High School auditorium.

TCAPS Citizens for Students raised $9,780 so far this year and spent $2,904.01, mostly on mailings, according to committee filings submitted to the county clerk on Oct. 25. But there’s still time to raise and spend more before the election.

The committee has been significantly less active this year than last, when it had raised $30,530 and spent $24,798.66 by Oct. 26.

“We raised quite a bit of money last year for the campaign and this year we were just using different methods of communication that didn’t require as much funding,” said TCAPS Citizens for Students chair Jennifer Dutmers.

Dutmers said the group communicated more often through social media and face-to-face meetings. She also said the group is considering running radio ads next week in support of the proposals.

The numbers are representative of what has been a less-contentious campaign for the school ballot after administrators spent months trying to figure out why the 2012 ballot initiatives were defeated by about 7,000 votes.

Ballot question committees can raise money in support of or against ballot issues. They must be registered with the county and list all of their contributors and expenditures if they expect to raise or spend more than $1,000 in an election cycle.

TCAPS Board of Education member Eric Falconer surmised that the ballot initiative was more widely accepted this year and needed less advertising.

“I think a lot of effort was put up-front as far as TCAPS asking the community what the most appropriate request would be,” said Falconer. “It wasn’t so much selling the idea and convincing people that’s what they want, it was more making everyone aware of the benefits of the program.”

Falconer was one of two individuals to contribute $1,000, the top contribution this year. Board President Kelly Hall also contributed that amount.

Board of Education members Julie Puckett, Scott Hardy and Marjorie Rich also contributed $100, $100, and $150, respectively.

Other TCAPS employees contributed to the committee, including Superintendent Steve Cousins.

The committee collected fewer corporate contributions this year; in 2012, Team Elmer’s contributed $5,000, Premiere Land Services contributed $5,500 and Grand Traverse Construction contributed $3,000.

Peggy Corcoran, the co-owner of Premiere Land Services, said she would have been happy to match last year’s contribution, but wasn’t asked.

Brian Lawton, the vice president of Grand Traverse Construction, said the company couldn’t afford to match last year’s donation. It did contribute $500 this year.

Residents of Grand Traverse County also saw signs from a second ballot question committee, Citizens for Better Roads. The committee paid for signs in support of a 1-mill increase to raise $4.4 million for streets and roads. It raised less than $1,000, so it did not need to disclose its contributors.

The committee’s treasurer, Anna Mouser, is the daughter of Grand Traverse County Road Commissioner William Mouser.

“Our roads are in horrible shape and I think that there’s one way to make them better and that means we need to come up with some money to do it,” said Anna Mouser, noting that the price of fuel, salt and sand increased in recent years.