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May 11 AISD Bond Election: The 'Chronicle' Endorsements, With a Note From the Publisher

By Nick Barbaro, Fri., May 10, 2013

Austin Independent School District School Bonds: YES

The long-delayed Austin American-States­­man election endorsement arrived Sunday ("For Mia's future, say 'no' to bonds," May 5), and it was ... how to put this delicately? ... a steaming pile of disingenuous bullshit. I am certain that someone on that editorial board understands how bond issues work, so it's really inexcusable that they chose to misrepresent the process – indeed, the entire nature of what we're voting on – in order to further their short­sighted vendetta against the current AISD leadership.

The crux of the Statesman's decision was that "we cannot in good conscience recommend approval of a package that is riddled with questionable cost estimates and expenditures and rushed for inclusion on the May ballot." Yet as they are well aware, the cost estimates they're citing matter little at this point in the process. If there are projects and repairs that can be brought in for a fraction of the estimated cost, all the better: That money will never be spent, and that debt never incurred. Similarly, if the contemplated med center high school never gets off the ground, for one of any number of reasons, that authorization will have cost us nothing. But if we don't authorize the money for that contingency, we close the door on that option without ever examining it. Along the same lines, the Chronicle editorial board continues to be very skeptical of the proposed boys' academy, but we recognize that this is not the time or place for that fight. There will be many more hours of discussion among staff and at the board level, and perhaps even a new superintendent, before any money is spent on that project – but frankly, as much as I dislike the idea, I think the board was probably right to include its contingent funding in this package.

The Statesman also questions "using long-term funding for some short-term repair work" included in Proposition 3 – as if they were unaware that 1) the state contribution to such short-term operational funding has been cut repeatedly, and 2) replacing that money locally out of operational funds (i.e., property taxes) exacts a 45% surcharge on taxpayers due to the state's recapture system. Yes, you read that right. If we raise taxes to pay for the broken windows the Statesman admits need fixing, 45% of the money raised leaves the district, whereas bond money is not subject to recapture. That's a no-brainer; failure to acknowledge it cannot be a simple oversight.

These bond votes don't come up very often; if this one passes, it'll be funding projects over a five-year window, as well as paying for a large backlog of deferred maintenance that is truly shameful in many cases. The "rushed" process by which we got here was not great – we outline our complaints about it in our main endorsement. But the bond package itself is a solid mix of absolutely vital repairs and expansions, funding for inevitable growth, and contingent funding for promising opportunities that may or may not eventuate, but are worth being able to explore.

The Bond Proposals

Proposition 1: $140,566,000

Health, Environment, Equipment, and Technology

$81,000,000 Technology districtwide

$20,000,000 Energy conservation districtwide

$14,310,000 Transportation districtwide

$9,540,000 Maintenance, facilities, and equipment

$9,325,000 Classroom/science lab fixtures and equipment

$6,391,000 Food services campus improvements

Proposition 2: $233,950,000

Safety and Security, Overcrowding Relief, New Schools and New Construction

$92,100,000 Three new elementary schools based on population growth

$47,450,000 Additions based on demographics (Murchison and Burnet middle schools; Cook, Doss, Perez, Blazier, and Pillow elementary schools)

$23,470,000 Safety and security districtwide

$15,400,000 Individual campus plan addition requests

$12,780,000 Functional equity additions

$12,150,000 Land acquisition

$11,000,000 Replacement/expansion of Anderson High gym

$8,000,000 New south HS feasibility and design

$7,600,000 Fine arts addition at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

$2,500,000 Multipurpose gym addition at Govalle Elementary

$1,500,000 Fine arts addition and renovations at Lamar MS

Proposition 3: $349,165,000

Academic and Building Infrastructure

$311,222,000 Facility systemic repairs

$25,461,000 Individual campus plans

$12,482,000 Libraries campus improvements

Proposition 4: $168,564,000

Academic Initiatives, Fine Arts, Athletics

$76,310,000 Physical education and athletics

$36,000,000 Career & technical education new programs

$25,697,000 Fine arts

$20,000,000 School for Young Men at Ridgeview campus (old Anderson High)

$10,557,000 Special education

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