Voters pass $489.7M in Austin ISD bond election; two propositions fail

Updated May 11, 10:15 p.m.

In a tight race, Austin voters May 11 passed two of Austin ISD's bond propositions, while the other two propositions failed. The total cost of the two bonds that were approved is $489,731,000.

According to unofficial results from Travis County, with 174 of 174 precincts reporting, 50.6 percent of voters supported Proposition 1 (which the district said would fund health, environment, equipment and technology), while 49.4 percent opposed it.

Results showed 49.7 percent voted in favor of Proposition 2 (to fund safety and security and relief from overcrowding), while 50.3 percent were against.

For Proposition 3 (to fund academic and building infrastructure renovations, repairs), 51.1 percent voted in favor, while 48.9 percent voted against.

Fifty-one percent opposed Proposition 4 (to fund academic initiatives, fine arts and athletics), while 48.9 percent supported it.

All results are unofficial until votes are canvassed.

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce's board of directors unanimously endorsed the bond election, and its members and staff raised substantial funds to support it.

Drew Scheberle, the Chamber's senior vice president for education, said he looks forward to working with AISD's administration to adopt a plan in the next 13 months that will further improve district facilities.

"The first takeaway is that it's embarrassing that 93 percent of registered voters didn't vote," Scheberle said, adding that Proposition 2 lost by around 200 votes.

While Scheberle said the chamber is excited that schools will see technology and upgrades as a result of the two approved propositions, he said that as the population of Austin continues to grow, there will need to be some big changes.

"We're going to have to figure out how to stack more students into some already overcrowded schools," he said.

Now that the election is over, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will work with the board, schools and the community to reassess priorities, according to the district.

"While voters did not approve all of the propositions, they did agree that all of our schools need to be maintained and well-equipped to support the quality of education in our city," Carstarphen said in a news release. "Propositions 1 and 3 will positively affect the quality of education for Austin students for many years to come."

Opposing the bonds, the Travis County Taxpayers Union thanked its supporters at a watch party, founder Don Zimmerman said, noting that the group has been campaigning against the propositions.

"I'm happy that we knocked out at least two of [the propositions], and hopefully this will raise more questions about the district's mismanagement," he said.

Zimmerman said he thinks the split votes illustrate the lack of clarity voters had on how much the bonds would cost.

By law, ballot language must disclose that the potential cost of bonds are unlimited, and Zimmerman said Austin ISD's ballot language did not. AISD has stated that the bond's anticipated cost for the average taxpayer with a $200,000 home would be about $70 a year or $5.75 per month, which Zimmerman said misled voters.

He said that during the week following the election, the TCTU plans to challenge the election with a lawsuit regarding the district's ballot language.

Posted May 11, 7:15 p.m.

Voters on May 11 weighed four propositions in Austin ISD's $892 million bond election, and early voting results indicated a close race.

The school district said the funds would pay for improvements in areas including building infrastructure, technology, academic initiatives, fine arts, athletics and relief from overcrowding, but so far all four of the bond propositions are poised for failure.

In early voting, 47.8 percent of voters supported Proposition 1 (which the district said would fund health, environment, equipment and technology), while 52.2 percent opposed it.

For Proposition 2 (to fund safety and security and relief from overcrowding), 47.4 percent of early voters supported the measure, while 52.6 opposed it.

For Proposition 3 (to fund academic and building infrastructure renovations, repairs), 48.6 percent supported it while 51.4 percent opposed it.

Fifty-three percent opposed Proposition 4 (to fund academic initiatives, fine arts and athletics), while 46.3 percent supported it.

All results are unofficial until canvassed. Returns are expected to be canvassed May 22, according to district officials.

Scheberle said he and others were making calls to voters and campaigning in favor of the bonds until late in the day May 11.

"We just have to hope that the turnout on election day is enough to compensate for the early votes," he said.

AISD has not held a bond election since 2008. It is the fifth-largest school district in Texas, and serves about 86,000 students at 124 schools, according to AISD.

More Community Impact Newspaper coverage, including official ballot language and an article on the bond's potential effects on Southwest Austin facilities, is available at www.impactnews.com/topics/2013_austin_isd_bond_package.

More detailed information and school-specific plans are available at www.austinisd.org/bond.

Background: Community responds to bond campaign

The Chamber, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, many parents and the Austin Council of PTAs pledged their support of the bond during the past several months.

Annemarie Read, a parent and president of the Oak Hill Elementary PTA, said the bond will make necessary upgrades to schools and improve students' education experience overall. Noting AISD schools on average are 40-year-old campuses, Read said she has been advocating for the bond in the community and encouraging fellow residents to show their support.

"Education should be important to everybody," she said.

Opposing the bond, the TCTU's Zimmerman argued the funds are "not for kids," but instead for local contractors, architects and other professionals who will benefit from the district's project design and construction needs. Zimmerman said he thinks the information AISD provided to the public about the bond was misleading.

Launched in 2012, the TCTU has filed lawsuits against AISD regarding the bond and plans to challenge the bond election, Zimmerman said.

"We want an injunction against the money being spent, so we're going to try and block AISD from spending this $890 million because they didn't properly disclose the cost on the ballot language. They didn't tell people that the tax would be unlimited," he said.

John Blazier, an attorney who served on the Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee that helped develop the AISD bond propositions, said he is unsure of what might happen if the bond does not pass.

"If one of these bond propositions fails, then we've got a problem. If more than one fails, then we've got a catastrophe," he said. "We literally have a disaster on our hands [if Proposition 3 fails] We have no [other funding] options. Eighty-five percent of the overall maintenance and operations budget is salaries for teachers and staff. There is not enough room in that budget to do the things we have to do."



MOST RECENT

Medici Roasting
Local coffee chain Medici Roasting opens cafe in The Domain

Medici Roasting is now open in The Domain inside the Flatiron Domain building.

Lake Travis ISD trustees Oct. 20 approved communication standards with other area law enforcement. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lake Travis ISD Police Department formalizes communication, coordination with other local police entities

The Lake Travis ISD Police Department is working to educate and integrate into the community.

Homes are under construction in the Cross Creek development near 183A Toll in Cedar Park. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Cedar Park, Leander home sales slow in September

September home sales in Leander decreased 43% from 2020, but the average price reached $503,497—a 34% year-over-year increase.

A calculator created by the Rocky Mountain Institute looks at the environmental impact of TxDOT's proposed designs for I-35 in Central Austin, one of the most congested roadways in the country. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nonprofit's tool says TxDOT I-35 expansion proposals would have profound environmental consequences

The tool says that the proposal would create between 255 and 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year.

Photo of the Travis County administration building and sign
Travis County hears update on process to reassess master plan for aging correctional facilities

The process comes after county commissioners opted to pause all activities of the master plan over the summer.

Many local events Oct. 23 include kids activities, such as pumpkin decorating and trick-or-treating. (Courtesy Canva)
10 things to do Oct. 23 in Round Rock, Pflugerville

Go to Round Rock Diwali Fest, a dog festival, trunk-or-treats, and fall markets.

The next Hays Commissioners Court meeting is Nov. 2 at 9 a.m. at 111 E. San Antonio St., San Marcos. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Rapid housing assistance available for Hays County residents in need

The Hays County Emergency Rental Assistance Program has expanded and added a new program called the Community Assistance Program that partners citizens in need with community-based case managers to help get them back on their feet.

The county reported 37 newly-confirmed cases and one new hospitalization with 15 new discharges. Additionally, 17 people are currently hospitalized, down from 39 on Oct. 7. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Hays County reports one COVID-19-related fatality Oct. 20; total active cases continue downward trend

The county reported 37 newly-confirmed cases and one new hospitalization with 15 new discharges. Additionally, 17 people are currently hospitalized, down from 39 on Oct. 7.

A sold lot in the Cortaro development in Dripping Springs is under construction. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Housing market shows signs of stabilizing, but median prices in Southwest Austin area remain high

Hays County is growing fast and selling houses for more and more money, though the number of sales is down year over year, data show.

Guests can shop local businesses, enjoy food trucks and hear live music on Oct. 21. (Courtesy The Landmark)
The Landmark to host fall vendor fair in New Braunfels

Guests can shop local businesses, enjoy food trucks and hear live music on Oct. 21.

Photo of a row of houses, with one under construction
Central Austin home prices decline for second month but still tower over previous year

Homes prices in the Central Austin area are up 15.5% from September 2020.

Georgetown began their sidewalk improvement plan in May and hopes to make the Square more accessible and safe. (Brittany Andes/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sidewalk improvements on the Georgetown Square continue with lane closure

Construction will continue on the Georgetown Square as improvements are being made to the sidewalks in downtown Georgetown that will create better accessibility and improve safety for pedestrians, according to city officials.