DALLAS — Austin Independent School District's largest-ever bond request grew even larger with a recommendation for an $898.4 general obligation bond election in May.
A revised project list unveiled at the Feb. 11 trustee work session by a bond advisory committee added more than $8 million to the initial summary of $889.8 million in capital projects the bond task force submitted to the school board in January.
Voters in the Texas capital approved $343.7 million of GO bonds in 2008 and $520.5 million in 2004.
The four-part proposal includes $349.4 million for district-wide facility upgrades and renovations, $266.6 million for four new elementary schools and additions to seven schools to alleviate overcrowding, land acquisition for a new high school in south Austin, $150.9 million for academic programs and athletics, and $131.6 million for technology and facility equipment upgrades.
Trustees are scheduled to vote Feb. 25 on the final project list that would go to voters May 11.
Trustee Robert Schneider said he was concerned about the late additions to the project list two weeks before the board is scheduled to call the May election.
"This seems rushed to me," Schneider said. "I'm not at all pleased about it."
The revised project list includes $12 million for initial work on a science and technology career high school on the campus of a University of Texas medical school in Austin and $20 million for an all-male high school similar to the district's Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.
District officials said no official request has been received for a science high school in the teaching hospital complex, but preliminary discussions have been held.
"We didn't want to get ahead of the board, but UT is moving ahead rapidly," said committee co-chair Ramon DeJesus. "They wanted to know if district does get some valuable space, do we have the funding for a project."
The bond project list going to voters should reflect the district's needs in the future as well as taking care of current overcrowding and other issues, said Trustee Cheryl Bradley.
"We need to capture as much as we can with this bond election because it will be a few years before we go out for another bond issue," she said.
"At $899 million, it will be several years," said Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.
Approval of the bonds would require a property tax increase to 19.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from the current 16.3 cents.
In addition to the capital costs of the proposed new schools, officials estimated annual operational costs at each new campus at $915,000, including an initial $250,000 start-up cost to fund necessary personnel.
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 Fitch and Standard & Poor's. The debt also has triple-A enhancement with coverage from the Texas Permanent School Fund.