Traverse City Area Public Schools officials understandably are down in the dumps since district voters’ Nov. 5 rejection of a bond proposal intended for major reconstruction and other upgrades at local schools. TCAPS badly lost an over-inflated bond request last year, but returned this year with a more thoughtful, slimmer proposal that would have addressed significant deficiencies in three elementary schools, among other improvements.
A second item on this year’s ballot would have paid for a dramatic face-lift for Central High School’s performing arts center.
Both ballot questions fell, the former by about 250 votes and the performing arts request by a larger count.
That means TCAPS officials spent the better part of two years pouring time and energy into efforts that at first blush bore no fruit. What’s left is a post-election hangover, as well as an opportunity for soul-searching.
The latest loss left some TCAPS board members in a bit of a dither at their Nov. 11 meeting, the first such official gathering since election day. Some — not all — acted in, well, reactionary fashion, and variously blamed seniors, residents of Traverse City’s outlying townships, and others for not acting responsibly and approving the millage.
The election outcome should spur TCAPS administrators and elected officials to do some deep-thinking, but they’d be wise to avoid taking the twin defeats so personally. Likewise, they should refrain from casting aspersions when figuratively rounding up the usual suspects for blame. Voters in Kalkaska and Elk Rapids school districts also shot down millage dreams, and Grand Traverse County voters in August demolished Northwestern Michigan College’s request for a tax hike.
There’s more to tax request defeats than personal animosity toward government officials, though that mindset certainly is true of a segment of the voting public. But for the most part voters who continue to smart from the Great Recession and who worry about their most basic financial and survival needs aren’t in much of a mood to boost their property tax bills, regardless of the benefit to the overall community.