Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 7, 2013

Leaner bond questions for TCAPS

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

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools administrators want to take another shot at securing capital improvement funds this year. To do so, they’ll try dividing last November’s $100-million bond proposal into smaller, less expensive pieces.

District officials expected to present their bond recommendation to the TCAPS Board of Education during a meeting Monday night following an extensive review of why voters defeated the last TCAPS bond proposal by roughly 7,000 votes.

“We’ve obviously done a lot of due diligence to see what the general public wants,” board member Scott Hardy said. “Now we’ve got to sort through that.”

TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins credited the community at-large with providing valuable feedback, and said several core concepts stood out during the review process.

Community members will support a bond issue, but they want to see a lower overall dollar amount, a shorter time frame for the completion of projects and a proposed Central High School auditorium construction project separated from other would-be projects.

“Those were really four messages that just kept coming out over and over again,” Cousins said.

The administration’s recommendation calls for two separate ballot questions in November. The first is a $35-million, .27-mil main 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.

The second is a $13-million, .09-mil proposal for auditorium reconstruction at Central High School.

The proposals respectively would result in annual average tax increases of about $27 and $9 for owners of a $200,000 home.

They also ask voters to consider projects with an overall price tag that’s less than half the cost of the projects in TCAPS’ last bond proposal: $48 million versus the $100 million sought last year.

Much of the savings result from the recommendation to delay major renovation plans at Central Grade School for three to four years, which also shortens the overall timeline for completion of the proposed projects to six years.

A reduction in the size and scope of the Central High School auditorium project also lowered the overall price of the suggested improvements. The administration’s recommendation calls for a 670-seat reconstruction to make the Central facility “functionally equitable” to West Senior High School’s auditorium.

TCAPS Board members originally wanted to make a final decision on a 2013 bond by mid-May, but Board of Education President Kelly Hall recommended the decision be delayed until June 10.

Hall added the administration’s proposals can change while the board deliberates what to do, if anything, next fall.

Northwestern Michigan College officials last month announced plans to float an operations millage to voters this summer.

Cousins said he does not expect the NMC millage to interfere with any TCAPS ballot initiatives.

”People will understand the difference between the two and how each benefits the community,” Cousins said.