Austin ISD looks ahead after voters narrowly pass $489M in school bonds

Six-year implementation plan being prepared for board of trustees

Voters on May 11 approved Austin ISD bond propositions 1 and 3, representing about $489.7 million in school facilities improvements. AISD must plan for those projects as well as what to do about overcrowding relief and other changes in propositions 2 and 4, which failed.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said proposition 2 failed by about 200 votes. Proposition 1 passed with 50.6 percent of the vote, proposition 3 passed with 51.1 percent while 51 percent opposed proposition 4, according to unofficial results.

"There's a lot of pressure on our taxpayers, and I do think that played into the vote being so close," she said, adding: "We have to really talk about the bottom line. It's clear to me that Austin [voters] want a lot for their children, and that is a beautiful thing, but us figuring out a way to pay for it is a whole other conversation."

The district has a process for implementing bond projects, said Vincent Torres, AISD board of trustees president.

"We're not going to start all the projects on day one. They're going to be spread out over six years," Torres said.

Jeff Kauffmann, AISD director of construction management, said he has developed a six-year implementation plan outlining how bond projects will go from blueprints to buildings and upgrades.

He expects to present that plan to the board by June. Once it is approved, AISD might hire architects as soon as August or September, he said. His department appoints project managers to oversee each item from design to move-in, he said.

The board will then review schematic designs. Once those are approved, AISD will solicit a construction manager.

"When everybody agrees we've got the right scope and the right price, then we go back to the board to ask them to basically OK the bid. Once we do that, then we go off and start building it," he said.

Kauffmann said he has informed local architecture and engineering firms of the six-year rollout to determine availability.

"We've got to design [each project] first before we put it out to bid," Kauffmann said, noting the process can take months.

Paul Turner, AISD executive director of facilities, said the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee will work to ensure the district implements what voters approved.

Drew Scheberle, senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the district will also need to figure out how to pack in more students into already overcrowded schools, including those in Northwest Austin.

"Those are schools that are seeing tremendous growth," he said. "The school that we play, go to all the time, Cook Elementary, ... has already got 11 portables, and it's already at 200 percent capacity. So there's going to have to be some big changes."



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