ACC postpones calling bond election until 2014

The Austin Community College board of trustees decided to postpone calling a bond election until 2014 to allow for the college to complete its Academic Master Plan and review the bond package.

The board has discussed the possibility of a bond election for 358 meetings during the last several years and entertained Nov. 5 as a potential date for the bond election that would fund capital improvements at ACC. Should the board wait until Nov. 4, 2014 to put the bond package before voters, it would need to call the election by August 2014.

In an Aug. 19 special-called meeting, trustees said factors that influenced their decision to wait until 2014 include added time to evaluate the Bond Program Advisory Committee's recommendations for a bond package and completing the master plan.

Trustee Allen Kaplan said moving the election to 2014 increases the chance for greater voter turnout because of the various other local elections taking place in November 2014, including the first Austin City Council members elected to the new 10-1 voting districts. He said completing the master plan is essential for considering what improvements and projects would be included in a bond package.

"The academic master plan is absolutely key to where this college is going to go, and we need to have that completed," Kaplan said. "As I understand it will be completed in October, and we need to digest things and see how that informs what we eventually put on the ballot."

On March 4, the board approved 25 members for a Bond Program Advisory Committee to assist with the process of preparing for a bond election. In June, the committee delivered a list of top 11 priorities for districtwide improvement projects, including renovations at Highland Mall and other campus expansions.

Kaplan said the community has shown support for ACC Highland but wants to know more specifics about what the project would entail.

Trustees Victor Villarreal, Barbara Mink and John-Michael Cortez said that they felt ACC was well prepared to call a bond election this year but that it is wise to wait until 2014. Cortez stressed that the board's decision not to call a bond election in 2013 is not a reflection of the work done thus far by ACC staff or a reflection of how trustees feel about recommended projects for the bond package.

"As I've mentioned a couple of times, even beyond the 11 items, we need all of these things," Cortez said. "I think [the board's decision] is a reflection of a pretty-well-thought-out, conceived understanding of where the community is."

Trustee Tim Mahoney said he does not think ACC was ready to call a bond election in 2013, partially because the master plan is not completed. He supported waiting until November 2014 to consider an election.

ACC President Richard Rhodes said he does not want the hard work done by ACC's faculty and staff to go unnoticed by the public.

"I don't want us to feel like this has been a year that has been for nothing because we are going to put off the bond election off for one year," Rhodes said. "I think that everything that this institution, the faculty and staff have done during this past year has positioned us as an institution to be that premier community college in the nation."