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Leffingwell, civic groups urge voters to back AISD bond package

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by Ramon Ramirez

With early voting for the May 11 elections underway, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, backed by Austin Independent School District officials, members of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Education Austin, Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and parents, Tuesday urged voters to support the $892 million bond package from AISD.

“We must continue to provide opportunities for our kids now,” said Leffingwell, “We should not now abandon our students and teachers.”

The bond’s four propositions would collectively fund improvements within schools and go toward items like upgrading electrical systems, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, plumbing, replacing floors and installing security cameras.

“This bond proposal has been well vetted, the needs of every school in AISD were assessed,” said Vice President of Austin ISD’s Board of Trustees, Gina Hinojosa.

The bond’s language and line items were put together by an advisory board that reviewed staff recommendations and solicited input from 30 community members. The bond passed on a unanimous vote by the AISD Board.

Chief opposition stems from the Travis County Taxpayers Union, who held its own Tuesday demonstration. In a Tuesday blog post, Don Zimmerman with the TCTU thanked “those who have compassion on Austin ISD taxpayers, renters, and business owners who are being taxed out of their homes” and called the bonds “for contractors, NOT FOR KIDS.”

While Zimmerman, secretary of the TCTU, has positioned his organization squarely against the AISD bonds, some are questioning why he is even involved in the issue. In an email exchange with a KXAN reporter, Zimmerman acknowledges that he is a resident of Round Rock, and does not live in the Austin school district. He maintains that out –of-town construction interests are supporting the bond issue in order to further their own interests.

For his part Mayor Leffingwell touched on his upbringing, championing his education at Becker Elementary, Fulmore Middle School, and Travis High School—all Austin public schools. Early voting ends May 7.

Tuesday was the second day of early voting in the May 11 election, which has the AISD bond issue on the ballot. Early balloting was slow again, with just about one-half of one percent of registered voters casting ballots on Tuesday. A total of 2,424 votes were cast, with most of them at early voting polling stations around Travis County, with other votes cast at the county’s “Motor Voter” stations. The top polling location was the Randalls at South MoPac and William Cannon with 454 votes. That was considerably more than the second largest turnout at Ben Hur Shriners Hall, with 304. Early voting continues through May 7. Polling locations are available online at the Travis County Elections website.

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