Naked City

AISD Board Gets Bond Plan

The AISD Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee presented its final recommendations for a capital-improvement bond package to the district board of trustees Monday night. The recommended $420 million package would be put before voters this fall as four separate propositions: $187 million for building renovation, $54 million for security and health, $162 million for classroom additions and six new schools, and $16 million for athletic facilities. This works out to a tax increase of about $5.50 a month for the owner of a $157,000 house.

In its presentation, the CBAC addressed concerns that parents had raised during four public forums about their draft proposal. Despite strong support for a new middle school in the Circle C area, the committee recommended holding off; the CBAC's Vincent Torres explained that the area did not meet the committee's guidelines for determining the need for new schools. The area's existing schools (Bailey and Clint Small) would not reach 125% of capacity by 2007-08. "We were very impartial in applying these guidelines," said Torres. "If it didn't make the cut, it didn't make the cut."

However, the committee expressed support for a $6.5 million science facility at Travis High and an $8.5 million fine arts facility at McCallum High, although neither appeared in their recommendations. Strong support for these additions emerged during the CBAC's public forums, and a few parents showed up Monday as well. "The fine arts facility was on the backup list of the 1996 bond, and eight years later, it's still on the backup list," said McCallum parent Bill Newchurch. "It's time to push it to the front of the list."

The CBAC's John Blazier urged the board to consider the parents' requests. "These are big numbers, but they're the kinds of numbers we have to invest in these inner-city schools to make them competitive," he said.

The committee also suggested changes to the way bonds are developed, including soliciting community input earlier in the process. They also asked AISD to pay greater attention to ongoing maintenance, noting that the average maintenance budget of a business with $1.2 billion in facilities is about $12 million a year. AISD spends about $5.4 million. "We don't put enough money into maintenance, and we're paying that price," Torres said.

Trustees will review and discuss the Bond Committee recommendations at a televised public work session at 6:30pm on Tuesday, April 6, and will then take community input at three public hearings – Monday, April 19, Reagan High School, 7pm; Tuesday, April 20, Covington Middle School, 7pm; Saturday, April 24, Austin High School, 9am – before deciding on a final bond package May 10.

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Austin ISD, Citizens Bond Advisory Committee, Vincent Torres, Bill Newchurch, John Blazier

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