AISD's billion dollar fix

- A billion dollars, that's how much AISD wants voters to approve in a bond election this November.

The district claims it can be done without a tax hike.

But, members of local taxpayer watchdog group are warning voters to hold on to their wallets.

Menchaca Elementary School was built in 1975. Back then the south Austin location was more farm country than urban sprawl. Now, miss-matched floor tile that the children now walk on inside the building is symbolic of the maintenance strategy that has kept it, and other AISD schools, open.

Shannon Puzey who has sent three kids to Menchaca Elementary tells FOX7 the school is long overdue for a makeover.

"There's leaky roofs all over, but I think we have to look at it as if it were your home, you wouldn't just keep piece mealing it you eventually have to make a major change,” said Puzey.

Menchaca Elementary is one of several schools targeted for major repairs and tech upgrades; along with some new construction.

But only if voters approve a billion dollar bond proposal in November. In announcing the plan AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district cannot afford to put off the projects.

"But over time, with facilities aging, our average age of our facilities is 44 years old, 20 years from now, if we don’t do something about it, it will be 64 years old and what then. What's going to happen then, I think our approach is being proactive,” said Cruz.

AISD Director for Financial Services, David Edgar, said the big bond fix can be done without a tax rate increase.

"As I see our debt structure, very quickly paying down, so there is capacity, in the future years, to issue new debt, without having to increase that tax rate. We are replacing old debt with new debt and maintaining that level flow,” said Edgar.

While the need may not be in doubt, for some the promise of no tax hike sounds too good to be true.

Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayers Union believes the school calculations are like homeowners extending the length their mortgage to get a lower monthly rate.

"I don’t buy it; the fact is the school district does not have a magic potion that allows them to borrow money for free,” said Falk.

The short term benefit, Falk warns, will eventually increase actual costs.

"Read my lips, this bond will cost residents about $200 on the average home, I don’t care what they say, that is what the freight is, that’s what it’s going to cost, period," Falk said.

The debate between school officials and bond opponents is expected to heat up as the summer beak counts down to the new school year this fall.

 

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