Austin taxpayers may be staring down the barrel of even more debt this year – if AISD approves a mind-blowing $1.5 billion school bond for the November ballot.
Austin Independent School District trustees have before them an ambitious $1.5 billion worth of tax-funded debt to consider putting before voters on the November ballot. Expectedly, the bond package ties together some of the district’s red-meat needs to shiny, unnecessary ambitions. Yet while it’s all too often for district bond packages (especially one of this magnitude) to cobble together needs with wants – it’s not often you hear its proponents say so.
“This is not a bond that is just supposed to meet our needs,” said Trustee Amber Elenz on the potential debt package. “This is a bond that is supposed to move us forward.”
A ‘forward move’ might actually scale things down – considering the district has had declining enrollment four years in a row.
As it currently exists, the package includes the typical updates and renovations to existing facilities and nine new schools. Although relatively a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the bond, the package also contains a couple curious $3 million and $6 million for undesignated roof and safety improvements, respectively – which is odd, considering the single largest item the package contains is a $188 million item specifically for ‘critical facility deficiencies.’
Perhaps they expect some of the construction (either existing or new) to deteriorate – they just don’t know exactly how yet. After all, it’s not like contractors for school districts have any incentive to build things that last.
Amazingly, this package outweighs the overall budget AISD passed back in November – the largest in AISD’s history at $1.3 billion. The average homeowner was projected to see an annual $338 increase in their overall property tax burden due to appraisal increases to fund that budget – of which nearly a third was remitted to the state for recapture under the state’s Robin Hood school finance mechanism.
The new bond proposal seeks to compensate for the $408 million lost to Robin Hood and officials are expecting a maximum tax rate increase of 3 cents per $100 valuation in order to pay for it. The bond could be finalized for the ballot as early as the board’s meeting Monday.
With all of the added debt hoisted on the backs of Austin taxpayers in the past year – whether it’s a historically large school budget or an equally unprecedented transportation bond – Austin area homeowners are getting hosed by skyrocketing public debt burdens and property appraisals.
Unfortunately, it seems there is little relief in sight.