DALLAS – Voters in the Austin Independent School District are expected to decide in May on an $889.9 million general obligation bond proposal to finance a capital plan developed by a citizens’ bond committee.
The proposal outlined to district trustees Monday night would be the largest debt request ever by the school district. Voters approved $343.7 million of GO bonds in 2008 and $520.5 million in 2004.
The district will hold two public meetings on the bond proposal in January. The schedule calls for trustees to approve the final size and project list on Feb. 11 and set the May 11 election at its session on Feb. 25.
School districts in Texas have until March 1 to approve a bond election for May 11. Bond requests are limited to May and November.
Approval of almost $900 million of GO bonds would require an increase in the district’s property tax rate of 3.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The current tax rate of $1.242 per $100 includes an operations tax of $1.079 and a debt service component of 16.8 cents.
Total assessed property value in the 294-square-mile district that includes the city of Austin is more than $62 billion.
Austin Independent School District’s $757 million of outstanding GO debt is rated Aaa by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by both Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. The debt is enhanced to triple-A with coverage from the Texas Permanent School Fund.
The district uses a $150 million commercial paper program for construction finance of school facilities.
Proceeds would fund construction of four new schools and extensive renovations and upgrades at others, according to the presentation by bond committee chairs Ramon DeJesus, Albert Hawkins, and Carolyn Merritt. The committee was established by trustees in June 2012 to develop a list of projects for the May election.
The new schools and expanded facilities are needed to relieve overcrowding in the rapidly growing Austin Independent School District and prepare for expected increases in student enrollment as the population of central Texas continues to rise, DeJesus told trustees.
The four-part program includes $343.4 million for capacity expansion, upgrades, and renovations at existing schools, $264.1 million for new schools, $144.9 million for academic, fine arts, and athletic facilities, and $131.7 million for health, environmental, and technology upgrades.
The academics proposal includes $20 million to build an all-boys school that trustees have considered but not yet approved. If the boys’ school makes the final project list, it may be on the ballot as a separate item.
In addition to the four new schools in the proposed capital plan, the district is asking for $16.2 million to buy land for future campuses and $8 million to study and design a new high school in south Austin.