Supporters of the Austin school district’s $892 million bond package quickly raised $30,000 in political contributions, while the opposition has raised less than $1,000 in the initial weeks of the campaign, financial records released Thursday show.
The Travis County Taxpayers Union, a political action committee fighting the bond package has raised $964. Most of that money has already been spent on 4-by-8 signs that will soon pop up along roadways.
So far architects, electricians, contractors and engineers have put up the most money to support the bond, which would pay for hundreds of millions of dollars for renovations, repairs and construction in Austin schools. Vote For Our Kids, the political action committee supporting the bonds, has raised $30,580, according to campaign finance reports.
The contributions began pouring in as far back as October — months before the school board voted in February to put the bond on the May 11 ballot.
“That should tell you a lot about where this is really coming from,” said Don Zimmerman, president of the Taxpayers Union, the only group publicly opposing the bond. “This is for contractors, not for kids.”
Zimmerman and his group oppose the bond because of he sees it as an increase in taxes that will primarily fund special interest groups.
The $892 million proposal is split into four propositions. If all pass, the tax bill on the median-valued home in the district, $191,551, would rise to $2,466, a 3 percent increase. The district’s property tax rate is $1.242 per $100 valuation, including $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. Passage of the bond package would raise the tax rate by 3.5 cents.
A large portion of the proposed bond revenue — about $350 million — would go toward renovating and repairing schools, athletic facilities and other facilities across the district. The bond would also upgrade technology in schools, purchase new buses, fund new safety and security measures and set aside money for new schools.
John Blazier, who served on the district’s bond advisory committee and is the secretary of Vote For Our Kids, said the district is in dire need of the improvements.
“We really are at a tipping point,” Blazier said. “The items we need are significant. The needs are very great. We’re a growing city. We still have a viable public education system.”
State figures show the district has 86,124 students, about 5 percent more than the 82,181 enrolled in the district in 2007-08, when the district last passed a bond measure.
The group has so far spent $21,500 of the money raised on focus groups, logo design and a marketing plan.
Another group, the Committee For Austin’s Children, has also raised money in support of the bond, but did not specify the amount or the contributors in its finance reports.
Because it raised less than $500, the group was not required to report that information.
Turnout in the May election is expected to be low. The May 2010 Austin trustee election turnout was 9,463 voters, or just 2.52 percent, and political consultants predict an even smaller turnout this spring. The district’s employee union and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce — who backed the bond earlier this month — give the pro-bond crowd a wide base of support.
The school district provides more information about the bond on its website, www.austinisd.org/bond. Information about the Travis County Taxpayers Union’s efforts can be found at www.tctunion.com. Information about Vote For Our Kids efforts can be found at www.fixaustinschools.com.
This entry was edited to include additional website links.