Austin Community College is waiting for a ruling from the Third Court of Appeals of Texas before it will move forward with construction of a new campus in Kyle. The lawsuit by a Kyle dentist challenging the outcome of a November referendum also caused ACC to miss out on $20 million in federal bonds.
ACC, like many public community colleges in Texas, has a taxing district that is much smaller than the area it is responsible for serving. This map shows the difference between the two. ACC has been gradually trying to expand its revenue base by offering lower tuition and new campuses to areas that agree to be annexed to ACC’s taxation district.
In one such referendum in November, voters in the Hays school district approved annexation by a 59 percent margin. But Kyle dentist Ray Wolbrecht filed a challenge to the election in December, claiming that ACC did not accurately inform voters of the tax cost they would bear as a result of annexation.
"Either intentionally or unintentionally, they seriously misled the voters," Wolbrecht told KUT News. "That's what it's all about. If they are complaining about losing that money, it's because they did it to themselves, and they're trying to pass that blame onto us."
Wolbrecht says this service plan submitted to voters before the referendum, did not disclose the maximum possible tax rate ACC could implement, which, according to state law, is $1 per $100 of assessed property value.
ACC would not do a telephone interview with KUT, but in a news release, ACC legal counsel Cobby Caputo said, "We are confident this lawsuit is without merit, and the courts have found in our favor throughout this process."
ACC won the first round in state district court, but Wolbrecht appealed to the Third Court of Appeals of Texas. That case is now pending, and now ACC says it is forced to sit on 96 acres of land it purchased for a new campus in Kyle.
The delays also meant ACC could not apply for federal Build America Bonds in December, money that would have paid for 35 percent of the interest costs on construction bonds, or about $21 million.
The community college, meanwhile, is moving ahead with construction on its Elgin campus, which is still scheduled to open in 2013.