Saturday, May 4, 2013

AISD Bond Props 1-4: Frequently Asked Questions



Austin ISD 2013 SCHOOL BOND ELECTION – Bond Basics
Frequently Asked Questions on $892 Million Bond

Haven’t debt and taxes already grown much faster than student enrollment in AISD and other Texas Districts?
Data compiled by the Texas Comptroller (chart on the right) illustrates the growth of spending vs. growth of student enrollment for Texas School Districts for the most recent decade such data is available.  AISD follows state trends.  AISD employment is also consistent with state trends:  only 49.4% of employees are teachers.

Didn’t voters just approve a 63% tax rate increase for the Travis Healthcare District, along with over $306 Million of new Austin Bonds, in November?
A Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee (CBAC) was established and charged by AISD employees with making a recommendation on the scope and timing of the bond, and a pro-Bond PAC raised over $30,000 months before the Bond vote was approved.

Why is the Bond election being proposed in the middle of another lawsuit on Texas School Finance?  Can’t the Bond wait?
The District has $230 million of “authorized but unissued debt” that could be utilized more quickly than the new proposed debt, while waiting for a Texas Supreme Court decision on potential new school financing model that might relieve property taxpayers.  The current AISD outstanding debt (not including interest owed), as of the last official audit in Aug, 2012, is $878 million.

Why is the election being held in May, instead of a later date with higher voter turnout?
Last November Austin voters approved moving the traditional May city council election date to November; Austin City turnout at that November election was over 60%.  Last May, the Austin city turnout was just over 10%.  Because the AISD Bonds are the most significant items on this May ballot, the estimated turnout could drop below 5%.  The District chose the May election date.

Are there other alternatives to handle student enrollment growth besides increasing debt and increasing property taxes?
Charter schools, as well as private and home schools, educate Austin school children without adding Bond debt and higher property taxes.  The Austin KIPP charter school alone has 1,500 students on a waiting list; statewide over 100,000 students are on charter school waiting lists.  Senate Bill 2 (if passed in the current legislature) eliminates the arbitrary cap of 215 charter schools, which provides more Charter opportunities, while numerous other bills propose additional student choices not requiring more debt and taxes.  These bills won’t be decided until after the May Bond election.  The Austin ISD Board, with three recently elected trustees, just canceled an existing contract with a local Charter School (IDEA).

If economic growth and taxpayer income doesn’t increase as the District predicts, and if interest rates rise, could the district raise taxes high enough to cover the new Bond debt payments plus interest?
The Texas Education Code (45.003) could permit the District to raise property taxes that are “sufficient, without limit as to rate or amount, to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds”.  While AISD estimates an initial tax increase of $70 on a $200,000 home, there is legally no limit as to how high property taxes may be raised to repay Bonds, with unknown future interest rates.

Early Voting is APRIL 29th – May 7;  election day is May 11th (2013).  For more info in favor of Bonds, see www.austinisd.org/bond, opposed, see www.tctunion.com 

Citations can be viewed at: http://www.tctunion.com/?page_id=80

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