After two months of conferring with the Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee, facility consultants for Austin ISD tonight presented a $989.3 million potential bond package to the district's trustees.

Divided into two groups of "essential" facility projects, the group 1 bond proposal carries a price tag of $989.3 million, while the second amounts to $407.3 million. The first group includes the modernization or new construction of 14 schools, as well as costs associated with technology, transportation, safety measures, police equipment, furniture upgrades, bond carry costs and more. The second group is made of lower-priority projects that would push the bond cost beyond $1 billion.

Cost adjustments

A few cost-saving measures were implemented since the previous cost estimate of $1.5 billion was presented to the trustees on June 5, according to Matias Segura of AECOM, the district's facility consultant.

A decrease of approximately $3 million was accomplished by fast-tracking the partial or complete rebuild of Brentwood, T.A. Brown, Casis, Govalle and Menchaca Elementary schools, as well as the Rosedale School. An abbreviated timeline for the construction of a new Northwest Austin elementary school and a facility to relieve overcrowding at Blazier Elementary School in Southeast Austin also helped reduce the cost of the bond package, Segura said.

Weighing the options

The majority of trustees recommended the district pursue a single bond with a cost of under $1 billion. This would uphold a priority voiced by the board, the advisory committee and the public that the bond impose no additional burden on the district's taxpayers.

"It is literally 'Sophie's Choice' to decide which projects to take out so that [the bond cost] fits under $1 billion," trustee Yasmin Wagner said. "If it's a single proposition under a billion that we have a high assurance of passing, I would rather take that than the risk of passing nothing at all."

Trustee Ann Teich echoed this sentiment, alluding to voters in neighboring school districts, such as in Round Rock ISD, who chose to reject a proposed bond.

"I would probably err on the side of caution and stay under a billion, not raise our tax rate and keep it at one proposition so we can get as much as we can and not run the risk of some projects not making it because they do not appeal to our voters," she said.

What to cut

In order to combine the two groups without exceeding a bond package cost of $1 billion, trustees proposed adjusting or eliminating certain line items.

House Park, the stadium located at 15th Street and Lamar Boulevard in Central Austin, is prioritized in group 1 and carries a price tag of $15 million for improvements to the concession stand and restrooms and a replacement of the press box. Certain trustees recommended the removal of this line item to reduce costs.

"I like a good game as much as anybody else, but $15 million is a lot of money," trustee Ted Gordon said.

Proposals to cut the $10 million furniture line item and $65.5 million technology line item were also floated by trustees.

Another work session will be held at 6 p.m. June 14 for trustees to continue their bond discussion. The board is anticipated to call for a November 7 bond election at its regular board meeting June 19.