Lansing school officials react to millage bill signing

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill on Wednesday that limits how local governments and schools can get information to you about their millage proposals.

It bans local officials from using public funds to do things like send out mass mailings and buy radio ads 60 days before a millage election.

Some local officials say the law amounts to a gag order and will hurt their ability to get millage money.

But, lawmakers who passed it said using public funds to put out information on millages, effectively translates to campaigning with your tax dollars.

Wednesday night was the first of many meetings for Lansing School officials to decide the best and most efficient way to go about getting information out to the public when it comes to future bond proposals.

6 News spoke to Lansing School Board President, Peter Spadafore, about how the new law will affect their efforts to get a bond proposal passed.

Spadafore said the efforts are being put forward right now to make sure the transparency in all of the district’s efforts are still there.

“That 60 days will dramatically impact our ability to communicate with voters and provide transparent and factual information,” Spadafore said.

Because school district officials will be limited to what they can say ahead of elections, Lansing School Board President, Peter Spadafore, said without having advocacy groups and citizens committees in place, false information could spread.

“Advocacy has now become very important rather than information, because we need to make sure that there’s not a misinformation campaign out there,” he said. “So it’s really important that citizens get involved and understand what they’re voting for and that we have advocacy groups that are willing to come out and say this is important to our community, you should vote yes on these things.”

To put it into general terms, 60 days before the May 2016 election, the Lansing School District will have to go quiet on any information regarding the $120 million bond proposal voters will see on the ballot.

“So now we have to re-think how we go forward,” Spadafore said. “I, as an individual citizen of the Lansing School District will be involved in advocating a strong “yes” vote for this millage for this bond. It’s a very important part of keeping this district competitive with our neighbors.”

There’s a “Friends of Lansing’s Schools” group that will work to spread the word about the bond proposal.

It’s the same group that helped pass the district’s last millage request.

Wednesday night, officials had the first of many meetings to get the conversation started about how they will remain transparent within the community, to ensure the future of the Lansing School District will continue to thrive.

“We will be knocking on doors, we will be sending mailings, and we really will be talking about what this is and even supporting the May 3rd election,” Spadafore said.

The group is still in its early stages, as tonight was the first of many meetings that will take place over the course of this year.

Lansing School Board President Peter Spadafore said the strong support from the Greater Lansing community will help in the efforts to spread the word about future proposals.

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