Austin School Trustees have been grappling with a projected $94.4 million budget shortfall, forcing tough decisions like cuts to jobs and programs. But on Monday night, the school board will have an entirely different decision to make: whether to buy a $4.1 million tract of land on which to build a district-wide performing arts center.
The expense was approved by voters in the 2008 bond election. An $82 million ballot proposition included $40 million for buying land and building a performing arts center. The tax rate impact of the proposition was 0.4 cents per $100 of property evaluation. It meant the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $8 per year in property tax.
State law prohibits the district from using the money to pay teachers' salaries or fund basic maintenance and operations.
The proposed location is a 4.46-acre site along Mueller Blvd. between 51st St. and Barbara Jordan Blvd. You can see the site on this map.
In materials prepared for the school board, district staff say they chose that site mainly because it is owned by the city and therefore "the level of risk normally associated with a private developer is significantly diminished." They also say it met these criteria:
- Efficiency of location, meaning site dimensions that allow for appropriate orientation of buildings for efficient and safe pedestrian and vehicle movement;
- Availability of all necessary utilities;
- Proximity of mass transit;
- Potential for mixed-used or joint use;
- Central location in the District as compared to other candidate sites; and
- Availability of nearby amenities and services.
The Austin American-Statesman reported this morning that some serious hurdles would remain after the board approved the land purchase.
"The approval process can go quick, or the approval process can go slow," said Jim Walker, a member of the district's performing arts center task force and the city's Mueller commission. "We're excited to work with AISD to make sure it fits in."
In addition, traffic patterns and parking options — Williams expects a mix of street parking, lots and a garage — will need to be examined. "Where will the cars park?" Walker asked. "Where will the buses go?"
Board members are scheduled to take up the issue around 10 pm on Monday. You can watch the meeting live on AISD's website or on Time Warner Cable channel 22.