UPDATE, 12:26 a.m.
Austin school trustees in the early morning hours of Tuesday approved a timeline to form a plan for the future of Eastside Memorial High School.
The timeline includes moving forward to shutter Allan Elementary for 2013-14. The school will remain empty and IDEA Public Schools will need to find a new home for its 540 students.
Beginning Tuesday, administrators will being to develop the Request for Proposal for a new partner to help improve the high school’s academics.
EARLIER, 11:15 p.m.:
Austin district trustees unanimously approved putting on May ballots an $892 million bond package, the largest school district package ever attempted in Central Texas.
The bond will be broken into four propositions:
• $140.6 million for health, environment, equipment and technology
• $233.9 million for safety, security and relief from overcrowded schools
• $349.2 million for academic and building infrastructure renovations and repairs
• $168.6 million for academic initiatives, fine arts and athletics
Earlier in the evening, the board considered separating the $20 million in renovations to the old Anderson High School to house the School for Young Men, but the majority did not support it. Trustee Robert Schneider also asked to break the package into six separate propositions to provide voters more details for which they are voting, but the motion failed because he couldn’t get support from another trustee for it.
The bond is larger than the last two Austin school bonds combined. Voters approved a $343.7 million bond package in 2008 and a $519 million package in 2004.
If trustees move forward with the bond package, the owner of an average-value home, currently $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,123, an increase of about $86 annually.
The overall 2013-14 tax rate would total $1.277 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 19.8 cents for debt service, an increase of about 3.5 cents.
Trustees held off for more than two years, considering what would be the right time to hold the election. They backed off calling for the election in November because other government entities were also asking residents for money.
EARLIER, 10:58 p.m.:
In a split vote, Austin school board members voted to continue granting tax breaks to owners of properties in the city’s historical tax exemption program.
The board voted 7-2 to participate for another year in the program, which gives property tax exemptions to historic properties. Trustees Robert Schneider and Cheryl Bradley voted against.
Earlier, Schneider made a motion to vote separately on commercial properties and residential properties, but the motion failed.
The exemptions are capped at $3,500 for owner-occupied homes that were given landmark designations after Dec. 31, 2011, and historic homes that are sold.
During citizens communications, three spoke in favor of the tax exemptions and one spoke against.
“We are at risk of losing many historic structures,” said August Harris of Preservation Austin.
Brian Rodgers, a founder of local advocacy group ChangeAustin.org, asked the board to opt out.
“It’s an unfair tax dodge,” he said.
There are more than 500 properties with the historic property designation. If the exemption had not been extended, the district could have collected more than $1.8 million in property taxes but would have been able to keep only about $300,000 because of state school finance laws.
UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.:
Austin trustees got their first glimpse at the district’s preliminary 2013-14 $1.02 billion budget, up about 4 percent from the current school year.
Austin district Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley Abram said the budget includes an enrollment increase of 173 students; operating costs for a North Central Elementary school, scheduled to open this fall; start up costs for a performing arts center and a second elementary school in North Central.
Like the current budget, the 2013-14 budget also gives employees a one-time bump in pay equivalent to a 3 percent for staff, which will cost the district about $14.2 million. This year, the preliminary budget also gives employees an additional 1.5 percent permanent pay increase, which will cost $7.3 million to help catch up salaries that were frozen in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Michael Houser, the district’s human resources chief, told board members that teacher salaries have fallen “woefully behind” compared to other Central Texas districts. Teacher salaries rank eighth out of 10 districts surveyed in the greater Austin area, falling behind Round Rock, Leander, Lake Travis, Eanes and Manor, among others.
Other budget costs include a $4.3 million increase in health insurance costs and an additional $300,000 for fuel for student transportation.
The preliminary budget, scheduled to be adopted in August, will pull up to $45.2 million from the district’s fund balance, or reserves.
Under the preliminary budget, the district’s tax rate of $1.242, including $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt, remains unchanged.
The board later tonight will decide whether to continue the district’s participation in the city’s program to give tax exemptions to historical properties and whether to put a $892 million bond package on the May ballot.
EARLIER, 7:01 p.m.:
Austin school district officials have just released the three different scenarios on the $892 million bond package that trustees will choose from tonight.
The first breaks the bond into four propositions:
- $140.6 million for health, environment, equipment and technology
- $233.9 million for safety, security and relief from overcrowded schools
- $349.2 million for academic and building infrastructure renovations and repairs
- $168.6 million for academic initiatives, fine arts and athletics
The second option removes the $20 million for a new School for Young Men from the “academic initiatives” category, and places the all-boys school as its own proposition, No. 5. The wording for No. 5 explains the renovations needed to the old Anderson High School campus to house the boys school, which is slated to open in 2014.
The third option breaks the package into six propositions:
- $164 million for health, environment, safety, security, equipment and technology
- $210.5 million for relief from overcrowding
- $349.2 million for academic and building infrastructure renovations and repairs
- $66.6 million for academic initiatives, including career and technology education and development and renovations for the School for Young Men
- $25.7 million for fine arts
- $76.3 million for athletics, including physical education and the purchase of school buses
Trustees are scheduled to discuss and take action on whether to put the bond propositions on May ballots starting at 10:30 p.m. Other issues on the agenda include: a presentation of the preliminary 2013-14 budget; the district’s participation in a historic property tax exemption program; and the timeline for an improvement plan for Eastside Memorial High and the schools that feed into it.
Austin school district trustees tonight will decide whether to put an $892 million bond package on May ballots.
The bond package grew by about $9 million this weekend, as trustees added final touches including 200 seats to a proposed fine arts auditorium at Ann Richards School for Young Women, a $2.5 million dance studio at McCallum High School and another $5 million in technology upgrades.
The proposed bond package has been divided into four ballot propositions, the number recommended by the district’s bond advisory committee. However, trustees asked staff to tweak the ballot wording and prepare proposals for tonight’s meeting that divide the package into four, five and six propositions.
Some expressed concern that including $20 million to turn the district’s Alternative Learning Center into an all-boys school could sink the entire proposition.
District spokesman Alex Sanchez said the wording and versions of the propositions won’t be available until just prior to the meeting.
The board tonight is also scheduled to vote on a timeline for an improvement plan for Eastside Memorial High School and the schools that feed into it.
In November, trustees terminated the district’s contract with IDEA Public Schools to run two East Austin schools. The charter operator has about 540 students at Allan Elementary this year and was scheduled to expand into Eastside Memorial, with seventh-graders, starting in August.
The state’s Education Commissioner Michael Williams had given the district until the end of the school year to come up with a new plan to bolster the high school’s academics.
In other board actions, trustees will decide whether to continue participating in the city’s program to give tax exemptions to historical properties.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the board auditorium of district headquarters, 1111 W. Sixth St. Citizens communications is scheduled to start at 7:50 p.m.