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TCAPS and Division Street: Now What?

December 4, 2012
TCAPS and Division Street: Now What?

Traverse City voters exercised their power at the polls in November to decide the fate of two key community initiatives – a proposed bond increase for Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) and an authorization to potentially transfer park land to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to widen Division Street. A month later, The Ticker checked in to see how election results have impacted both high-profile projects.

TCAPS
“The feedback I've received since the election is that the sticking point was the auditorium,” says TCAPS board president Kelly Hall, of the district's failed request for a $100 million tax increase from voters. The proposed mill bond levy increase – from 3.1 up to potentially 3.9 – would have covered costs for renovations at four elementary schools, technology and infrastructure needs, and – most contentiously – a new 1200-seat performing arts auditorium at Central High School.

“The current auditorium is at its breaking point,” explains Hall of the board's decision to include the request in the bond proposal. “The mics are breaking, the seats are horrible. There is both a capacity and a curricular need for a new auditorium in the district. But losing 60-40 (approximately 25,000 to 18,000 votes) showed voters didn't agree with us.”

Hall and the rest of the board are now wrestling with how to prioritize and fund a list of urgent improvement projects since voters denied the bond request. Money that was anticipated to come with the mill increase may now come out of TCAPS' general fund, “diminishing what we can spend in the classroom on teaching and learning,” according to Hall. Some projects, like the auditorium and a renovation of Central Grade School, are now completely off the table.

Paul Soma, chief financial officer at TCAPS, says replacing the roof at Glenn Loomis is the most pressing task facing the district. "The roof literally is at risk of complete failure," he says, noting that the fix will come next summer at a cost of $450,000 - funds that won't be recoverable once the entire facility is eventually renovated.

Soma adds that video security systems also need to be installed at Glenn Loomis as well as Eastern and Interlochen elementary schools, another project with a $450,000 price tag. Both Hall and board member Megan Crandall called the improvements “band-aid” solutions, short-term fixes instead of the hoped-for complete renovations that would've been made possible by the bond passage.

In the long-term, board members expressed consensus that the district will likely need to present another bond increase request to the community. At a TCAPS board retreat next week, members will analyze election results to begin determining what such a proposal could look like.

“I personally would be opposed to coming back to the community with the exact same proposal,” says Hall. “I don't believe this election was a vote of no confidence in the district itself – rather, people had concerns about certain aspects and the overall amount requested.”

DIVISION STREET
Voters who helped pass a proposal authorizing the transfer of park land to widen Division Street by a 59 percent majority might be surprised to learn they're one percent shy of a guaranteed go-ahead on the project.

Local attorney Grant Parsons, a vocal opponent of the proposal, says Section 128 of the city's charter requires a supermajority vote to dispose of parkland – 3/5, or 60 percent. He plans to challenge the vote in court – though since he is not a city resident, the challenge will have to be filed on behalf of a plaintiff who resides in city limits.

City attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht disputes Parsons' interpretation of the charter. In an October 11 letter to the city commission, she noted that the three-fifths requirement originated in the Home Rule Cities Act (HRCA). In 1966, that provision was amended to require a simple majority rather than a supermajority vote. While Parsons disagrees that the amendment applies to votes on parkland, he says if his challenge fails in court he may work to eventually get a referendum on the ballot to ensure future parkland votes require a supermajority approval.

“Parkland is our legacy in Traverse City,” says Parsons. “Even if you're talking about unconventional parkland, like that along Division, you degrade it by whittling it away. We have supermajority votes for our most important issues in this country...I believe disposing of parkland should be one of them.”

 


Most Recent Comments

 
JB on April 17, 2013 5:00pm

"Martha on December 4, 2012 1:21pm
Really? We need video security systems in our elementary schools?!? At at cost of $150,000 per school?"

Do you still feel the same way after Newtown and Boston?

Dave on March 12, 2013 6:56am

They have already put access to Munson from the South and West, and Madison from the North, Use one of those Routes, I'm wondering Who the Mayor Knows at Munson, Looks like a Special Interest to Me !!!!

Pat on December 6, 2012 4:12pm

The educational leaders in our community seem to have lost touch with reality. Their attitude is that whatever proposal they make, the taxpayer should immediately bow down and render his wallet. Many of the taxpayers that are expected to foot the bill for these costs managed to get a pretty adequate education without state-of-the-art everything.

jacquie on December 5, 2012 9:40am

For the first time EVER I voted against TCAPS. Here are classic examples of their poor stewardship: 1) Move a neighborhood of children from BV to CO; then reopen BV for 65 children; 2) Renovate GL for Montessori families failing to take note of a roof that has been leaking for years; 3) Proposing a 'state of the art' auditorium at CHS, while simultaneously threatening cuts to the music programs which would fill it; 4) Saddest is the complete disregard of CG, a city landmark, until it is literally falling apart. When Soma, et al 'get real' so will we.

Kit on December 5, 2012 8:45am

Mr. Truxton- In this case, majority does not "rule:" the City Charter clearly says so. When the City Charter was drafted, the drafters unambiguously chose to protect parkland with the requirement that any disposal of it must be approved by a supermajority. The dispute over whether the Ballot Proposal can go forward is thus not about whether the Division St. changes are wise; the dispute is about whether Parkland is given special protection under the City Charter.

Chris on December 5, 2012 8:40am

The TCAPS representatives should be ashamed of their actions. Because they tried to pull the wool over City voters' eyes and fund a deluxe unnecessary art project, necessary renovations will now come out of the General Fund at the expense of real needs.

David on December 5, 2012 7:43am

With the amount of money we pour into our local schools, spend per pupil on teacher salaries you would think these kids should all be Rhodes Scholars! I'm not seeing it. I agree with Dave's comment. Stop promoting the special interest and start giving these kids a basic and firm education to stand on.

Andrea on December 4, 2012 2:47pm

I voted in favor of TCAPS. Sad it did not pass. We must move forward. Bids received to fix a roof & add security seems crazy! The state of Michigan is in an obvious slump. Better bids have to be out there! Better bids = extra money for spending elsewhere within the district....& yes...what is left over definitely needs to go to the auditorium.....that place is a mess!

Martha on December 4, 2012 1:21pm

Really? We need video security systems in our elementary schools?!? At at cost of $150,000 per school?

Mike on December 4, 2012 12:42pm

$18,000,000 can buy a lot of "broken seats" and "microphones". Get a clue TCAPS.

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