Fri April 26, 2013
AISD Bond Language Comes Under Fire From Taxpayer Group
An effort to derail the Austin school district’s bond election was unsuccessful Friday.
A Travis County Court judge refused a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the vote. The order was sought by the Travis County Taxpayer Union. The group contends the official ballot language doesn’t say anything about how much each proposition would cost voters.
Proposition One says the tax rate can be collected "on all taxable property in the district sufficient, without limit as to rate or amount, to pay the principle of and interest on the bonds as they become due." The official ballot language says the district can pay for Proposition One Bond by "the levying of the tax in payment thereof."
The Travis County Taxpayer Union says the Texas Education Code requires AISD to specify one of two things on the official ballot, that either there is a limit on the tax rate increase or that the increase can be unlimited.
"There’s no clear lineation of ‘we are bound to this number.' You need to be bound to how much something costs. You wouldn’t got buy a car and the dealer says, ‘We’ll bill you.' You need to know exactly what the cost is," said Stephen Casey, a lawyer for the TCTU.
David Whittlesey is a lawyer for AISD. He says the ballot language is legal.
"The language in this ballot is correct. It complies with all aspects of law and 100 years of precedent. You don’t have to set the entire proposition on ballot. It just has to explain what the proposition is," Whittlesey said.
AISD estimates the rate would go up by 3.5 cents. That means the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $70 in taxes per year.
AISD spokesperson Alex Sanchez could not confirm if that estimate would go up or down. He says all the information in a proposition doesn’t need to be on the official ballot.
“The language is typically general to include whatever the tax rate is. But based on the information we have this is our best estimate about what might actually happen,” Sanchez said.
The judge ruled the court did not have the jurisdiction to stop the election because 23 people have already submitted absentee ballots.
“If there’s any issue that needs to be resolved it’ll have to be done after the election. And that’s the point the judge made today," said Dana Debouvoir, the Travis County Elections Clerk.
TCTU says it will continue the lawsuit regarding ballot language after the election is over. Early voting on the bond starts Monday and runs through May 7. Election Day is May 11.