The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

AISD Bonds: $519.5 Million

By Michael King, May 21, 2004, News

Following a yearlong research and review process and what trustee John Fitzpatrick called "an unprecedented level of citizen involvement," the Austin ISD board of trustees voted unanimously Monday night to set six bond proposals – a package totaling $519.5 million – before Austin voters on Sept. 11.

The final proposals resulted after considerable public discussion following the initial report of the district-appointed Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee. The CBAC, after reviewing needs at all AISD campuses, identified $600 million in possible projects, but based on voter research designed a $420 million bond package. After several public hearings, the CBAC added $39 million; after more work-group discussion over the last two months – including input from an athletics task force – the board itself pushed the total up to the $519.5 million adopted Monday. If approved, the entire package would result in a 4.65-cent increase in the AISD tax rate. Following the trustees' 9-0 approval, newly re-elected Board President Doyle Valdez concluded, "The Austin district Board of Trustees has taken a significant step to improve our schools and to ensure that students learn in a quality environment."

Board Vice-President Ingrid Taylor, who is stepping down this month, congratulated the citizens' committees for their work on the proposals and challenged AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione and his administration to help explain to voters that the bonds will be "critical for building and maintaining a sufficient infrastructure" for the district. Other trustees referred vaguely to controversial additions to the list, especially the Southwest middle school, which was added late in the process and supported most strongly by trustee Robert Schneider, who represents Southwest Austin. Schneider noted that this is only the district's "third major infrastructure bond proposal in 35 years," and argued that his neighborhood's need for additional schools can be balanced with environmental protections for the sensitive watersheds of the area. "We can address both concerns and work together," Schneider said.

John Fitzpatrick reiterated that the six proposals provide "choices and options for Austin voters," and said the board had tried "to strike a balance between maintaining inner-city facilities and the need for growth."

AISD Bond Proposals

1) Funding for six new elementary schools and a middle school, land acquisition for three more schools, and the addition of classrooms to existing AISD campuses ($183.6 million)

2) Renovations to existing AISD campuses and facilities ($201.1 million)

3) Investments in "safety and security" and environmental health projects ($53.9 million)

4) Athletics and P.E. facilities ($12.8 million)

5) A new district performing arts center and yet another middle school, this one in Southwest Austin ($44.6 million)

6) Refinancing existing AISD debt ($23.5 million)

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