In anticipation of an Aug. 11 vote to include a proposed $2.25 billion bond package on ballots for November's election, the Austin ISD Board of Trustees held a bond work session at their Aug. 9 meeting.

What started as two proposals presented to the board of trustees by the AISD Bond Steering Committee has been winnowed down to one $2.25 billion bond proposal created by AISD's administration. The administration, including key stakeholders Ed Ramos and Matias Segura, AISD chief financial officer and chief operations officer respectively, released a summary of the $2.25 billion recommendation Aug. 8.

Accompanying the $2.25 billion bond package is a proposed debt service tax rate increase of $0.01 per $100 in valuation.

The path to the finish line started with the steering committee developing two initial proposals, one for $1.55 billion and the other $2.18 billion. After receiving community feedback and advice from the board of trustees, the steering committee revised up the totals to $1.75 and $2.25 billion.

The administration utilized the steering committee's many months of work to inform their final proposal to the board of trustees. The administration's $2.25 billion proposal includes more than 90% of the recommendations made by the steering committee in their proposal of the same size, according to Interim Superintendent Anthony Mays.

Mays thinks the bond will have a profound effect on Austin ISD students and communities, especially those in lower income schools.

"In our entire history this district has never had a bond package that does more for students and communities in Title 1 schools both in total dollars and as a percentage of the bond," Mays said during the Aug. 9 meeting.

Bond package proposal contents

Security upgrades are prominent in the administration's bond proposal, totaling $46 million. "Safety is the top priority," reads the draft proposal highlights published by the district. Secure entry vestibules, which allow schools to control access to their buildings, would be installed in every school that does not already have one. Lighting, life safety systems and lock upgrades would also be part of the security upgrade funding.

Schools slated for full modernization in the administration's proposal include Travis Early College High School, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy, Allison Elementary, Andrews Elementary, Barrington Elementary, Harris Elementary, Houston Elementary, Langford Elementary, Linder Elementary, Oak Springs Elementary, Pecan Springs Elementary, Wooldridge Elementary and Wooten Elementary.

The administration proposal lists Navarro Early College High School as a phased modernization costing $60 million, whereas the steering committee's proposal allocated just over $41 million for improvements. Other high schools in line for phased modernizations include Anderson, Austin, Crockett, LBJ, McCallum and Northeast.

Other changes, among many, made to the steering committee's proposal by the administration include a $12 million increase allocated to the Clifton Center for additional HVAC and plumbing work; more than $18 million in additional funding for Covington Middle School to address similar deficiencies; and a $14 million addition to Bear Creek Elementary to increase student capacity to 696.

Nearly $5 million in renovations to baseball facilities at the Burger Athletic Complex, $76 million in technology upgrades and $15 million for improvements to the Delco Activity Center are also included in the bond package.

Segura noted in a presentation to the board that the administration's intention is to make sure the funding matches what the community is calling for.

"We also wanted to make sure we have the right projects for the right communities," he said.

Kevin Foster, AISD District 3 trustee, is concerned with some of the changes the administration made to the steering committee's proposal, citing funding for improvements that would shift away from campuses with more Black and brown students.

"We're trying to undo over a century of deeply ingrained inequities," Foster said at the meeting.

Foster went on to declare his support for the steering committee's proposal over the administration's.

"I am not and will not support a last minute shift of over $100 million that looks, unless I'm wrong and somebody can tell me I'm wrong, is a direct shift from black and brown to white."

Next steps

The board of trustees will hold a meeting Aug.11 and plan to vote on whether the bond will be included on ballots in November. The board can delay the vote further, but legally must call for it by Aug. 22. The meeting will also include time for public comment.

Mays is confident the bond will be a good thing for the district.

"The bond will positively affect the lives of our kids and our communities and generations to come—we cannot miss this historic opportunity."