Austin residents speak in opposition to $1B AISD bond

Austin ISD is asking voters to approve a $1 billion bond package. But the proposal is getting pushback.

AUSTIN - The Travis County Taxpayers Union partnered with a handful of community organizations to announce their opposition to the $1.05 billion Austin Independent School District (AISD) bond package. 

The district wants to renovate and construct 16 facilities as is laid out in the Facility Master Plan.

The big selling point from the district is that it won't have to increase the tax rate to fund the bond. That's because the district expects to take in more money from homeowners each year because of increased property appraisals. As AISD pays off existing debt with that money, it will issue new bonds for the 2017 projects if voters approve. 

But the Travis County taxpayers union says the district isn't being honest about how much the projects will actually cost homeowners.

"AISD and various other Central Texas bonding authorities are using the phrase 'no tax rate increase,' which while it is a true statement, based on certain assumptions it is deceptive because it makes you feel like it's free," said John Goldstone, who opposes the bond. "When in fact the only number that you need to know as a household to vote yes or no is the repayment cost." 

AISD's Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley Johnson said she put cost projections on the AISD bond website last week. The district calculates paying down the bond will cost homeowners annually $22.28 per $100,000 of appraised home value the first year the bond is issued in 2022. In 2029, that number increases to $39.75 per year for every $100,000 of appraised value.

And, Johnson insists, the district is being transparent. 

"I think [the Travis County Taxpayers Union] wants to show that the cost to the taxpayer is gong to be more than we actually presented because they want to us to assume no growth in the market," she said. "And to me that's not factual because we know there's going to be growth in AV values whether this bond passes or not." 

Bond critics also say they are concerned that the bond will close schools in East Austin. District officials say the bond is simply funding the Facility Master Plan, which does call for campuses to be consolidated.

Early voting is October 23 until November 3. Election Day is November 7.

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