Property Rich, Property Poor
How out-of-control development can hurt the economy, the environment, and AISD
By Richard Whittaker,
3:07PM, Mon. Apr. 21, 2008
Anyone with an interest in the politics of development should probably try to catch The Unforeseen, the documentary screening at Alamo South Lamar that uses the struggle over Barton Springs as a example of development run amok. In it, The Nation correspondent William Greider says American economists have set construction as the great, and possibly only, metric of success and worth. The movie looks at other non-financial impacts of planning, most especially the environmental: but runaway development, pushing up per-square-foot values, can have a more direct and cash-measurable effect on schools.
Because Austin ISD is counted as property rich, it has to pay a 30% surcharge on its regular maintenance and operations budget back to the state as recapture. As Superintendent Pat Forgione has said, this ignores completely the fact that roughly 60% of all kids in AISD schools are living at or under the poverty line, or that the hunt for affordable rental properties means some children are regularly switching schools (as outgoing AISD trustee Johna Edwards put it recently, "It's a tap-dance around to different schools.")
With predictions of an economic crunch and budgetary concerns high, a quick historical note: City staff freely talk about greenlighting the high-end and toney The Domain, the biggest development within city limits in years, in 2003 because they wanted to shore up dipping sales tax revenue. Now it's renting out one bed, one bath apartments for $1,275 a month. Good for sales tax, maybe, but how good for AISD?