What Austin ISD wants to do with the $1.05 billion bond

FILE - Austin ISD (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Austin ISD (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Voters in Austin will consider whether to approve the largest school bond in the city’s history. The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a bond election for $1,050,984,000. Despite the record amount of bond money, the district says the bond would not increase the tax rate.

The district breaks the plan down into three types of bond projects:

  • District-wide projects — aimed to benefit all students. (Examples: buses, technology upgrades)
  • New and modernized schools, including:
    • New northeast Austin middle school
    • New Casis, Govalle, Menchaca, and T.A. Brown elementary schools
    • New southwest Austin elementary school
    • New Eastside Memorial ECHS at original L.C. Anderson campus
    • Modernizations at Ann Richards, Bowie, Eastside, LBJ, Murchison, Brentwood, Northwest and Blazier
  • Reinvention programs – for 21st century learning
    • Early College High Schools
    • Fine arts renovations
    • LBJ ECHS Medical High School

The bond proposition was shaped by the district’s Facility Master Plan, which serves as a guideline for all AISD facilities over the next 25 years. This bond package is the culmination of almost two years of intensive work. The bond touches almost every campus in AISD. The district’s bond page lists projects at each campus.

District leaders say AISD needs a bond because the district is projected to pay more than half-a-billion dollars to the state as part of Robin Hood. When a school district takes out a bond, that money is exempt from the state’s recapture funding mechanism. Basically, bond money stays in the district, while $534 million of local property taxes goes to other districts.

So, how could the district take out more than a billion dollars in bonds without raising tax rates to pay for the debt? First off, district leaders say AISD will not borrow the total amount on day one, instead opting to borrow smaller amounts and pay off the debt as they go. The district also plans to sell land and facilities to help offset costs, as well as merging campuses to balance population shifts in the district.

Early voting runs through Friday, Nov. 3. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

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