Voters approve $1.1B Austin ISD bond, largest in Central Texas history


Voters overwhelmingly approved the Austin district’s $1.1 billion bond, the largest bond package to pass in Central Texas history.

The final unofficial results showed 66,512 votes cast, with 72 percent in favor of the bond and 28 percent against, or 47,931 votes for and 18,581 votes against.

The bond funds will pay to rebuild multiple schools, construct new campuses and address overcrowding, and comes after voters rejected half of the district’s bond package in 2013.

READ: Austin ISD looks to bond to boost enrollment, turn around schools

“I feel like it says that people don’t just like their public schools, they love their public schools,” said Kendall Pace, board president, from at a watch party at the Cover 3 sports bar, near district headquarters, where 50 bond supporters, including some trustees, gathered. “It’s a great feeling that the city believes in the public good. This process was better devised and more transparent.”

The wide-margin approval was a stark difference from the 2013 district bond results, when two of four propositions failed, and those that passed did so narrowly. Nearly twice as many voters cast ballots on Tuesday as did in the 2013 bond election, which was held in May.

District leaders say the passage of the bonds will not increase the tax rate, but taxpayers will still see rising property tax bills. District leaders are banking on increased property values, issuing the bonds as debt is paid down and getting low interest rates, to keep the tax rate flat.

Construction could begin as early as the fall of 2018.

Opponents criticized the bond for a lack of equity, particularly in how money would be invested in East Austin, called for greater transparency on the bond’s tax impact and questioned the need for new schools as the district’s enrollment continues to dwindle.

Don Zimmerman, who leads the Travis County Taxpayers’ Union, which opposed the bond, said homeowners should be prepared for rising property tax bills.

“Of course we are greatly disappointed that taxpayers will not show up to vote and defend both themselves and the people least able to shoulder the crushing tax load,” Zimmerman said.

Ken Zarifis, president of the pro-bond labor group Education Austin, said the entire bond process was better.

“There are clearly things we have to do as a district to be inclusive and address equity, but it was very gratifying to see the support for this bond,” Zarifis said. “The kids are going to get a lot of things they need.”

Zarifis called the 2013 bond election a wake up call to the district and pointed to the lack of trust in the district’s leadership as a reason for the failures.

“People have greater faith in AISD today than they had in 2013,” he said. “Hitting 70 percent or above has to show a trust in the leadership … that didn’t exist four years ago. We’re in a better place than we were four years ago. But I don’t want this to be an overconfidence. There’s still a lot of work and a lot of bridges that need to be built.”

Drew Scheberle, senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said passage of the bond will help the Austin school district “right size and create far more 21st century learning spaces.”

“Because Austin ISD has strong financial management, we feel confident this will also minimize the financial impact of the bond on property owners,” Scheberle said. “The kids will win.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: Threat cleared at Williamson County apartments, sheriff says
UPDATE: Threat cleared at Williamson County apartments, sheriff says

7:45 p.m. update: Authorities say residents are now able to move safely in and out of the Preserve at Rolling Oaks Apartments in Williamson County after law enforcement cleared a threat made earlier at the complex. “A specific threat was made in the area & after searching with multiple agencies we feel confident area is clear. Though nothing...
Border Patrol agent dies, partner seriously injured in Big Bend area

The FBI has taken charge of an investigation into the death of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and the serious injury of another Sunday in the Big Bend area of Texas. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez and his partner were taken to a hospital after sustaining injuries while on duty around Big Bend. Martinez died and his partner, whose...
Man accused of baseball bat attacks in North Austin, police say

NORTH AUSTIN Man accused of baseball bat attacks A 26-year-old man was charged with five counts of aggravated assault after police said he struck five people with his hands and an aluminum baseball bat in North Austin. Kenney Irons was booked into the Travis County Jail in lieu of bail set at $100,000 following the incident at Zoe’s Helping Hand...
JUST IN: Man injured in rollover crash in northeast Austin Sunday
JUST IN: Man injured in rollover crash in northeast Austin Sunday

One man was injured in a rollover crash in northeast Austin on Sunday, Austin-Travis County EMS said. The wreck occurred on the southbound service road of Texas 130 near East Pflugerville Parkway shortly before 3 p.m., EMS said. A man in his 30s was pulled from his vehicle and taken to Seton Medical Center Williamson with potentially serious injuries...
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet

A 65-year-old Florida woman was arrested and accused of murdering her husband and then hiding his duct-taped body behind a brick wall she built inside a closet.  Barbara Wozniak, of Shalimar, was charged with second-degree murder Friday night while she was already in the Okaloosa County jail on another charge of tampering with evidence...
More Stories