AISD debuts two bond design proposals – Austin Monitor | Candle Made Easy

Wednesday July 20, 2022 by Willow Higgins

Austin Independent School District hosted one series of four sessions last week to chat with community members about the Bond planning process for the coming year. Over 200 stakeholders tuned in to the first meeting alone to better understand the process and to give their two cents on the first draft of the proposals.

At the meetings, district officials presented two design proposals, the first a little more conservative than the second. Finally, considering community feedback, the Board of Trustees will vote on which plan will land in the November election. Ed Ramos, chief financial officer at AISD, explained that the bond proposals were prepared considering several critical requirements, all of which would require bond dollars to execute.

The state of Texas classifies AISD as a “wealthy school district” — a designation that allows the state to withdraw 50 percent of the $1.68 billion from Austin’s General Fund, leaving the AISD operating on just over $835 million can what is too short, what she needs. Because bonds are protected from government redemption, 100 percent of bond dollars are issued in AISD.

“If you look at a district’s needs, bonds can come up for modernized or renovated schools, upgraded sports and arts spaces. If you’re looking at major repairs that we can’t afford with our operating budget, it can pay for repairs like HVAC, plumbing, roofing, and technology upgrades—not just appliances, but networking or wireless infrastructure—school buses, security supplies, and teachers’ housing ‘ Ramos said.

Over 100 committee members contributed to the creation of the two bond proposals, gathering input from seven different long-term planning committees and the bond steering committee, in addition to community engagement.

Draft Proposal A was highlighted as an option that would not require a tax rate increase. The $1.55 billion would be used to fix critical facility deficiencies, which include things like fire alarms, security systems and much-needed HVAC upgrades. 14 campus upgrades; Security vestibules on each campus to protect against potential shooters; technology upgrades; bus replacement; competition fields at all high schools; and a rebuilding of Nelson Field and damaged bus terminals.

Proposal B, which totals $2.18 billion, would require a one-cent increase in the tax rate compared to the first proposal.

“It’s going to be very difficult to put everything we know we need into a single proposal,” Matias Segura, AISD operations officer, said at a meeting. “When you think of this significant need and that we only have a limited amount, we started thinking about what a one cent increase in the tax rate would bring to the county.”

The second draft proposal includes everything included in the first proposal, plus seven additional campus improvements, increased technology investments, additional improvements to athletic and visual and performing arts spaces, and an allocation for teacher housing to help cover a teacher’s living expenses.

“We can’t use bond funds to raise salaries, but we still have an affordability issue in the city of Austin,” said Jeremy Striffler, who intervened at the meeting to discuss the possibility of teacher housing. “Based on the $50 million idea (as part of Proposal B), we believe we could build 250 to 400 housing units. What we have to our advantage as one of the largest landowners in the city is over 2,200 acres of land that we can manage well and make sure we use.”

The four meetings held last week were just one of many catalysts for community engagement in AISD’s bond planning process. The feedback collected will be considered by the Board of Trustees, which will ultimately have by the end of August to decide which proposal, if any, will go to the vote in November. Additional public meetings will be held after the bond package is completed but before Austin voters cast their ballots.

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