DALLAS – Trustees of Austin Independent School District called for a May 11 election on an $892.3 million, four-part general obligation bond package after rejecting options to break the request into five or six proposals.
The total package approved late Monday includes $349.165 million for building and academic infrastructure construction and repairs, $233.95 million for safety and alleviation of overcrowded facilities, $168.564 million for athletics and academic initiatives, and $140.566 million for equipment and technology.
The four bond questions on the ballot provide options for voters, said board president Vince Torres.
“If they want to not support any of the options, or they want to support all, it gives them the options to do that,” Torres said.
A proposal by trustee Ann Teich to put a $20 million high school for young men into its own proposal failed to attract a majority, as did trustee Robert Schneider’s six-part plan.
The district will renovate an old high campus now used as an alternative learning center for the boys-only school.
Schneider said the board needs to develop a policy on how the district can better maintain its existing schools. The district’s facilities have an average age of 40 years.
“Where I think we need to get away from is continually relying on bonds to do basic facility maintenance,” he said.
The May referendum is the largest bond request ever by Austin Independent School District, and more than the total amount approved over the district’s last two bond elections. Voters in the school district that serves the Texas capital city approved $343.7 million of GO bonds in 2008 and $520.5 million in 2004.
A bond election had been considered in November 2012, but trustees delayed their request because the ballot already included a $385 million GO bond proposal by the city and a tax hike by the hospital district to raise $54 million of a University of Texas medical school in Austin. Both measures were approved.
A citizen’s bond committee initially proposed an $883 million package for a May vote, but later revised the request to $898 million to include projects suggested during public meetings on the bond plan.
Trustees settled on projects totaling $892 million at a special session Feb. 23. The board added $5 million of technology upgrades, a $2.5 million high school dance studio, and a larger auditorium at Ann Richards School for Young Women to the original project list.
Approval of the bonds would require a property tax increase of 3.5 cents to the current interest and sinking rate of 19.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Taxes on an average $244,000 residence would go up $86 a year if all four proposals are successful.
The district’s $757 million of outstanding GO debt is rated triple-A by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. The debt is enhanced to triple-A across the board with coverage from the Texas Permanent School Fund.
The district uses a $150 million commercial paper program for construction finance of school facilities.