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."