A proposed $158 million bond issue in the Lake Travis Independent School District is drawing opposition from a group that claims the debt would be too large for the district.

The organization, which calls itself Groups Opposed to Unsustainable Government Education Debt, or GOUGED, last week announced its opposition to the bond authorization at a press conference in the town of Lakeway, west of Austin.

Don Zimmerman, treasurer of the group, said that Lake Travis ISD has the highest debt among districts in the region and that plans for future schools do not match projected enrollment.

Founded in 1981 after a split with the Dripping Springs Independent School District, Lake Travis ISD was created to handle growing enrollment in the region.

Lake Travis district voters approved bond issues of $126.8 million in 2005 and $36.3 million in 2003. The school board members withheld a bond vote in 2008 because of the weak economy and the public finance crisis. Board president Jason Buddin said the decision to postpone a bond vote in 2008 makes this year’s proposal more urgent.

School officials say the opposition’s figure of $518 million of overall debt is incorrect because it includes 31 years of accrued interest.

Chief financial officer Johnny Hill said the district pays down the principal, leaving a debt of $318.2 million after debt service payments next year.

Zimmerman, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Travis County tax assessor-collector in 2008, also led GOUGED in opposition to a Round Rock Independent School District issue in the same year. Voters in the district approved $293 million of bonds.

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