AUSTIN --- On November 6th, Austin voters will be asked to approve a total of seven bond propositions from funding for more affordable housing to the building of more shelters for the homeless.
In March 2011, however, some in the community began to question the legality of a move on the part of city staffers to use bond money approved by voters in the late nineties in a way voters had not intended.
“I just want to assure everybody that whatever the money is pledged for on the ballot, if it's a specific item, it won't be spent for anything else,” said Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell.
Last year, KVUE learned that nearly half of a $40 million bond package passed by voters in the late nineties for the Town Lake Park Project was used to fund the daily operations of the Palmer Events Center which is not the way the area voters wanted it to be used.
The Park Project was supposed to be done in phases and completed by 2007. However, five years later Butler Park remains only 50 percent completed and Auditorium Shores which is also included in the Town Lake Park Project has yet to be touched.
Marty Stump with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department told KVUE it could take $10 million to $15 million dollars to complete only Auditorium Shores and the project could take until 2015.
“Some of the funding is in hand today for those improvements but not all of the funding,” said Stump.
Mayor Leffingwell said it’s all about the bond language on the ballot. If it’s vague, city staff has more leeway to use it as they see fit. If the bond language is very specific, the law will not allow the city to deviate from the original intent.
“I think the old adage "buyer beware" is very applicable to this. We have to be very careful about voting for bond elections where there's not a clear indication of exactly what the city is going to deliver,” said Jeff Jack, a former neighborhood leader integral in getting the Town Lake Park Improvement Project off the ground in the late nineties.
“We've been trying to get it finished now for a dozen years,” Jack said.