Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 18, 2013

TCAPS, Chamber discuss failed bond proposal

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

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools officials discussed last fall’s failed $100 million bond proposal with area business leaders.

TCAPS administrators and Board of Education members fielded questions and listened to comments from Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce members about the ballot proposal that lost by nearly a 60 to 40 percent margin of defeat.

Questions posed by Chamber members largely pertained to the message promoted by TCAPS ahead of the failed vote, and what the district learned during an extensive study of why voters rejected the 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.

”Knowledge is power. You have to be able to identify what the objections are,” Chase Bank regional President Doug Wolf said. “And it really is about your message.”

Wolf said TCAPS needed to use “allies” to help promote the millage, and he identified two groups who can help tell the district’s story: TCAPS parents and employers that value quality education when looking for new regions to expand business.

Tony Anderson, general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative, said the district’s message last fall revolved around homeowners but ignored businesses.

”To get businesses’ support, you need to say how this affects businesses, and that wasn’t done,” Anderson said. “You just assumed we’d blindly follow along.”

DTE Energy Regional Manager Steve Rawlings said certain “hot-button” words, like language about building the new auditorium at Central, turned off uninformed voters.

”Can’t we just stay away from the words that get people all fussed up?” Rawlings said.

The discussion concluded with Rawlings voicing his commitment to TCAPS.

“The business community here in the region gets that investment in education is the best investment their businesses can make in terms of dividends to come,” Rawlings said.

Board of Education Treasurer Erik Falconer said feedback from the Chamber reaffirmed what board members have heard in the larger community.

District administrators will make a recommendation on whether to seek a 2013 millage at the Board of Education’s May 6 meeting. Board members will make a final decision at their May 13 meeting.

The Chamber officially endorsed last year’s millage proposal. Doug DeYoung, the Chamber’s vice president of government relations and business advocacy, said the chamber will put any new proposals through a formal review process before deciding on an endorsement.