Elections have consequences. Words matter, too.
So it is that the Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education finds itself walking a fine line between making hard budget choices while also assuring voters that long-term infrastructure decisions are based on facts, not on how a particular group of parents vote.
After two consecutive millage defeats, the board is being forced to revise capital spending plans that had reconstruction of Interlochen Elementary school at the top of the list.
One suggestion has been to avoid spending the hundreds of thousands it would take to do necessary repairs to the aging building by simply closing the school. It’s a radical course of action that should be considered only as a last resort.
But the comments of board member Megan Crandall have likely raised concerns that building decisions will be based on other factors.
About a month ago, after voters defeated by about 250 votes a $35 million bond issue that would have paid to rebuild and repair Interlochen among many other projects, Crandall suggested the district include geographic issues as part of future decisions.
Voters in Green Lake Township, which is home to Interlochen Elementary, rejected TCAPS’ millage proposals by nearly 3-to-2 margins in the last two millage elections.
Other board members have since scrambled to say they don’t agree with Crandall and decisions about Interlochen will be based on other factors.
Board President Kelly Hall said discussions about closing Interlochen aren’t related to how Green Lake Township voted and that the majority of board members don’t support Crandall’s comments.
But it has to be said Crandall’s perspective is understandable. Board members were frustrated that after putting in hundreds of hours and much effort to listen to what voters said about the 2012 millage defeat, the 2013 version — cut by about two-thirds from 2012 — still lost.
It would be tempting, then, to show those who voted “no” that votes have consequences, and rejecting millage hikes could mean schools will close — maybe even the one in their own backyard.
That can’t be how public policy decisions are made. School board members are elected on the premise they will act for the good of the public and the good of the district as a whole.
Voters in Green Lake Township were hardly the only people who voted against the 2013 millage and holding them accountable for the loss is wrong. And if Interlochen Elementary is eventually closed, parents and kids alike will pay the price, no matter how the adults voted.