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AISD nears finalizing bond package

Austin ISD is gearing up to put a bond before taxpayers. Monday night district administrators presented their top needs to the board of trustees. (CBS Austin)

Austin ISD is gearing up to put a bond before taxpayers. Monday night district administrators presented their top needs to the board of trustees.

The Austin Independent School District says they have $4 billion in unmet needs. The school district is asking the school board to go to taxpayers for a bond that addresses one-quarter of that and puts the worst needs first.

"The superintendent has proposed the $989 million mark as his recommendation, but he also included about $500 million in additional projects that could be considered," explains Reyne Telles, AISD executive director of communication and engagement. Telles says if the bond stays under $1 billion, the district can make improvements without increasing the tax rate.

"We think that's really important for the voters to understand -- that we are able to address some of our most important needs within the district without receiving an actual tax rate increase," Telles says. However, others don't see any of this as good news for the taxpayer.

"They are not looking out for the taxpayer. They are looking out for themselves," says Don Zimmerman with the Travis County Taxpayers Union. "The purpose of our school taxes is supposed to be to educate kids. Not to build buildings, and what we've seen out of the districts is exorbitant and wasteful expenditures on infrastructure and they starve the classrooms," adds Zimmerman.

In May, Zimmerman and the union worked to defeat the Round Rock ISD school bond. He says they'll do the same with Austin ISD.

"There are other groups that agree with us, and you are going to see broad opposition to the Austin school bonds. They're unaffordable and they're unnecessary for a district who is losing students," says Zimmerman.

Austin ISD has reported a decrease in enrollment that is expected to continue. Still, they say modernizing deteriorating schools and building new campuses where they have seen growth is a pressing need.

Part of the superintendent's bond proposal includes the building or modernization of 14 campuses. The Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy -- LASA -- currently housed upstairs at LBJ High School would not get their own campus if the current proposal is adopted. The school board could vote on a bond package Monday, June 19.

Community members with questions or concerns for the district about the bond may visit AISDfuture.com, email Future@austinisd.org or call 512-414-9595.

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