GRPS: Bond opposition robocalls ‘misleading’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The leaders of Grand Rapids Public Schools object to information presented in a robocall urging people to vote against a proposed $175 million bond.

GRPS leaders said their biggest objection is regarding the amount of money the bond would cost a typical Grand Rapids homeowner. The robocall says it would cost the typical homeowner $4,000 over the life of the 25-year bond. GRPS says with an average city home value of $100,000, it would cost a homeowner $2,500.

“There are no words to describe how deeply saddened I am about those robocalls last night. They were misleading,” Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said. “It’s attack on me, your superintendent. It is an attack against my students, my parents, my teachers, principals, support staff and it is for all of these members in the community who have come alongside us.”

Former GRPS superintendent Bert Bleke said he received a robocall Tuesday night.

It said, in part, “Bureaucrats with the Grand Rapids School District want to sneak a huge property tax hike past voters like you.” The call then encourages voters to vote against the bond.

==Below, listen to a recording of the robocall. App users can click here to listen.==

“Robocalls are not illegal. There’s a lot of things in our society that are not illegal, but you have to wonder about the quality of ethics and the real logic behind them,” Bleke said.

“I just see this as an extension of this anti-tax movement, the reason we have no roads and everything else is crumbling is because the unwillingness to pay a tax for anything,” Bleke continued.

The calls are paid for by the political lobbying group, Americans for Prosperity. A spokesperson for the group said it is working with the Grand Rapids School Taxpayers Association. The association is not registered with the state and appears to only have a Facebook page that appears to have been created on Oct. 1.

The spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity said she would provide a statement about the calls to 24 Hour News 8, but she did not as of Wednesday evening.

The bond measure will go to voters on Nov. 3. Voters will be asked to support a $175 million bond over the next 25 years.

If approved, the money would be used for construction, security and technology. GRPS leaders said if the bond passes, each of the district’s about 50 buildings will receive some money. The majority of the funds will go to the district’s high schools.

Superintendent Neal said the district has proven itself through the Transformation Plan she introduced in 2012. She attributes the plan to leading to two years of improved count day numbers. GRPS lost about 50 kids each of the past two years, compared to hundreds every year before that, with about 900 kids leaving in 2006 alone.

If voters say no to the plan, Neal said she will not ask again.

“I won’t come back again. I will respect the voters,” Neal said.

She said she will continue to do her best as superintendent and doesn’t plan to leave the district.



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