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Austin ISD’s $2.44 billion bond package passes with overwhelming support

Thursday, November 10, 2022 by Becky Fogel, KUT

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Voters have approved Austin ISD’s $2.44 billion bond package, the largest in the district’s history. Five seats on the AISD Board of Trustees were also up for grabs. Four new members were elected to the board and one incumbent won reelection.

AISD’s $2.44 billion bond package is made up of three separate propositions.

  • Proposition A: $2.3 billion in general purpose funds
  • Proposition B: $75.5 million for technology
  • Proposition C: $47.4 million for stadiums

Austin voters overwhelmingly approved all the props. Now, Austin ISD will be able to borrow money to renovate schools, repair roofs and HVAC systems, make security upgrades, invest in new technological devices, and improve athletic facilities shared by multiple campuses. The district can also buy new school buses and musical instruments for students.

Austin ISD interim Superintendent Anthony Mays said the widespread support for the bond means a lot for the district.

“It means that our students and our teachers are valued. It means that our community values education,” he said, “and they want the best for our students and teachers.”

Austin ISD officials estimate the district will save millions of dollars on utilities and repairs because they’ll be able to use bond dollars to fix aging buildings. The goal is to funnel those savings into teacher salaries.

“Last year we spent $1.7 million on portable HVAC units because the air conditioners broke. That is as much as it costs to hire 26 teachers,” AISD spokesperson Jason Stanford said.

Mays is also hopeful that newer facilities will make it easier to retain teachers.

“Teachers being in new facilities, where again, the air conditioning is working, the water is running, the toilets work – that’s a big deal,” he said.

Stanford added the opportunity to make significant repairs at schools throughout the district and modernize 25 campuses will help with student enrollment.

“And it’s going to give these kids the learning environments they deserve,” he said.

Matias Segura, AISD’s chief of operations, described the 2022 bond package as a game changer for the district.

“You think about the trajectory of an organization and what this type of investment allows us to do. And for us, it’s about becoming a safer organization (and) making sure we’re doing things in an equitable way,” he said.

According to Segura, the first bond projects the district plans to pursue will be related to safety and security.

The last time Austin ISD had a bond on the ballot was in 2017. Seventy-two percent of voters approved that billion-dollar package.

Board of trustees

Five of the nine seats on the Austin ISD Board of Trustees were on the ballot. No matter what, the board was going to get three new members because the trustees in districts 1, 4 and 7 did not seek reelection. David Kauffman, a former AISD principal, is running unopposed in District 7.

A fourth new member is joining the board, after school board President Geronimo Rodriguez, who represents District 6, lost to challenger Andrew Gonzales. Gonzales is a former AISD teacher who is among the roughly 2,100 employees who resigned from the district after the last school year. Gonzales won with 66.29 percent of the vote. Education Austin, a union representing AISD employees, endorsed Gonzales.

Candace Hunter defeated Roxanne Evans in District 1 with 64.40 percent of the vote. Hunter will replace LaTisha Anderson. Both candidates previously worked for the district – Hunter as a teacher and Evans as a communications specialist. Education Austin endorsed both Hunter and Evans.

Another candidate endorsed by Education Austin, Kathryn Whitley Chu, won her race with 70.62 percent of the vote. Her opponent was Clint Small. He has a custom home-building business and was endorsed by outgoing District 4 Trustee Kristin Ashy. His father and grandfather both served as president of the AISD board. Whitley Chu has taught in Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD schools.

The one incumbent to win her race was Board Secretary Arati Singh, who ran for reelection to At-Large Position 9. Her opponent was Heather Toolin. While the election is nonpartisan, Singh was endorsed by the Travis County Democratic Party, and Toolin was endorsed by the Travis County Republican Party. Singh won with 67.09 percent of the vote.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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