AISD holding open houses to educate voters on billion dollar bond

The Austin Independent School District started its twice-a-week meetings for the public. The goal is to help educate people on a bond voters will be deciding on in November 2017.

AISD will be holding these open houses at different schools twice a week until the middle of October.

It isn't something to take lightly, it's a billion dollar decision for voters one the district said can be done without increasing the tax rate others said that is simply misleading.

“Welcome to Winn's library, our beautiful space, wonderful space for our students,” Anayansi Blessum the Winn Elementary Principal said as she was giving a tour of her school. 

AISD began its' open house tours of schools in the district. 

“This is part of the 2013 bond, it has attracted more students to our campus,” Blessum said. The open houses are being held for the public to get an idea of what their money went to from the 2013 bond, as well as improvements needed for many different schools which would be part of a billion dollar bond in November this year. The district said the money would be used to make long overdue repairs, tech upgrades, and fund construction of new facilities.

Something faculty said helps for students, staff and parents.

“It's like night and day, the difference between the old and the new, and the major difference is the new is just not new, it’s a wonderful new. You get motivated when you're in a wonderful beautiful space, I mean it's just human nature,” Blessum said.

Proposed in June 2017, AISD said the bond would not raise property tax rates.

In an article on AISD’s website Chief Financial Officer Nicole Johnson said it's partly because the district would not borrow the funds all at once. She said "We would be issuing about a billion dollars over five years. Our goal is to manage the tax rate every year by using 'just-in-time' debt where we layer in our debt." The district said that means it would pay off existing debt as it takes on new debt at the lowest interest rates possible.

“Only a fool would believe they are getting it for free and they are trying to sell that to the public, it's very troubling.” Roger Falk is with the Travis County Taxpayers Union, he said the district is misleading voters.

“People got to understand tax rate and tax increase are two different things. This bond costs you a tax increase no matter what you're being told.” He said the amount of money being borrowed on the bond will cost the average homeowner $250 a year to repay.

He said we need to fund our schools, but in an honest way.

“That's a key element of our society we have to do the best job we can there, if it takes money to do it. But we don't need to trick people to do it, that's not okay it's not okay,” he said.

From the AISD website, meetings are 5:30–7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and are designed in a come-and-go format, with presentations at 5:45 p.m. and at 6:45 p.m. A districtwide open house will be 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, with presentations at 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

The schedule of open houses is: 

September

  • Sept. 14—Bowie High School cafeteria
  • Sept. 19—Eastside Memorial ECHS cafeteria
  • Sept. 21—Lanier ECHS cafeteria
  • Sept. 26—McCallum High School cafeteria
  • Sept. 28—Travis ECHS cafeteria

October

  • Oct. 3—Austin High School cafeteria
  • Oct. 5—Crockett ECHS cafeteria
  • Oct. 10—LBJ ECHS cafeteria
  • Oct. 12—Reagan ECHS cafeteria
  • Oct. 17—Rosedale cafeteria, meeting for special campuses
  • Oct. 21—Austin ISD Carruth Administration Center Board Room, district-wide meeting

Child care, light refreshments and simultaneous Spanish presentations will take place at all meetings. For campus-specific information, visit the bond projects page and choose a school from a dropdown menu.

Early voting is Oct. 23–Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 7.

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