TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education President Kelly Hall gleaned a clear message from voters’ recent lopsided rejection of Northwestern Michigan College’s millage request:
Local tax increase referendums are doomed without a demonstrated need for increased funding and a concrete plan for spending any influx of public money, she said.
”Public entities requesting an increase in taxes better have a very good proposal if they anticipate victory,” Hall said.
A similar message filtered through to TCAPS officials during an extensive review of their own 2012 millage request, a $100-million bond proposal, which fell by nearly 7,000 votes last fall.
The review resulted in TCAPS board members deciding to float two significantly trimmed millage requests to voters this November: a $35-million, .20-mill proposal for, among other projects, reconstruction 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 separate $13-million, .09-mill proposal for auditorium reconstruction at Central High School.
”We did extensive research before approving the bond proposals, and we have solid data showing the community supports what we are going for,” Hall said.
TCAPS board member Scott Hardy called the NMC millage’s 2-to-1 margin of defeat “surprising” and “disturbing,” but added there are major differences between NMC and TCAPS — and their respective millage proposals — that voters need to consider before casting ballots in November.
TCAPS, for one, cannot increase revenues by raising tuition, like the community college, he said.
Additionally, TCAPS’ request is an attempt to alleviate inequity within the district by updating antiquated facilities to more closely resemble newer district buildings like Long Lake Elementary School.
“If we are going to argue equity at the state level we also need to argue it at the local level,” Hardy said.
Hall said TCAPS will educate voters about its upcoming millage proposals through mailers, community meetings and discussions with civic groups, among other avenues.
District officials already twice visited the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce to solicit its support.
The chamber backed the recent failed TCAPS and NMC millages.
Doug Luciani, the chamber’s president and CEO, said the NMC millage was an attempt by the college to become more “entrepreneurial” and less dependent on tuition dollars.
“The board really understood that and had a lot of trust in the NMC leadership,” Luciani said.
He said it’s unclear why voters handily rejected NMC’s proposal last week.
“There’s still a lot to unpack from this NMC election about what really went wrong and what were the biggest areas of concern,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s shaken our confidence in NMC’s leadership at all.”
Chamber board members will decide whether to support the new TCAPS millages during a meeting on Tuesday.