The Traverse City Area Chamber’s Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the Traverse City Area Public Schools August 7 bond millage proposal back in March. The Chamber made an early, definitive and decisive statement – a no-brainer really. For a regional business organization that works to strengthen the local economic sector, bolster the capabilities of its workforce, attract new talent to the region and compete in a national and global economy, few things are more important to a community than a strong and stable education system.
The TCAPS bond proposal is a measured, reasonable request to keep our region’s largest school district on sound financial footing going forward, while also giving our students and instructors the tools and safe learning environment they need to stay on top of the rapidly evolving world of education. The bond millage will fund the district’s 10-year, $107 million capital plan that includes new elementary school construction, and critical security upgrades at various elementary school buildings and West Middle School.
It will also generate $2 million annually for technology upgrades including STEM and Robotics facilities, $1 million for transportation busing, and annual dollars for upgrading athletic and physical education facilities, visual and performing arts and operational equipment.
The capital plan includes no frills or extras. It continues a 3.1-mill property tax rate for district taxpayers that’s been the same for 20 years and is 40 percent lower than the state average of 5.4 mills. It’s a small price to manage and maintain public assets that are worth more than $370 million. The TCAPS Board and district administrators have worked hard to stabilize and strengthen the district’s financial condition, and the TCAPS balance sheet is as sound as it’s been in years. The bond proposal is a result and extension of that fiscal responsibility. With no tax increase.
The Chamber and its partners at the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance invest an extensive amount of resources fighting for equitable per-pupil state funding for rural school districts including TCAPS and others across the region. Our region has made significant progress in closing that funding gap with wealthier downstate districts. It’s also making gains in securing more resources and local partnerships for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and the rapidly advancing field of Robotics.
But all the time, effort and resources to effectively operate our schools becomes good money after bad if the community fails to support its children by providing the capital and structural investment where the learning takes place. If we ask our state and federal legislators to do a better job helping us educate our children, it is incumbent on us as a community to make sure the foundation – the infrastructure – of our local system is where it needs to be.
A successful bond millage on August 7 will bring stability and security to the students and families served by Traverse City Area Public Schools – two things all of us should pursue each and every day for the children in our community. Please get to the polls and vote yes. It might be the easiest – and most impactful – decision you’ll make all summer.
Doug Luciani is CEO of TraverseCONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@traverseCONNECT.org