Education
5:23 am
Wed April 3, 2013

Chamber of Commerce Supports AISD Bond Package Under Certain Conditions

  The Austin Chamber of Commerce says it fully supports the Austin Independent School District’s $892 million bond package for facilities, technology and infrastructure.

But the chamber’s ultimate approval required negotiations.

The Chamber of Commerce wants to see a Facility Master Plan to address under-enrollment and overcrowding in some schools created by June 2014. On Monday, the school board voted to change the title of whatever it’s coming up with from “Master Plan” to “Guiding Principles.” The board also voted to loosen the deadline.

The chamber immediately rescinded its support for the bond propositions. The board then brought the proposal back up for a vote and returned it to its original language. The chamber went home happy.

Originally, the chamber also wanted the school board to guarantee it would not build new facilities unless all the schools had a certain level of enrollment, among other conditions.

“They were not numbers that we at district had familiarity with or understood how they came about or whether they would be universally applicable to all campuses. In other words they really just didn’t make a lot of sense to us," School Board President Vincent Torres said.

Chamber of Commerce President Mike Rollins says the chamber gathered the enrollment numbers from various school districts in the state. But eventually it abandoned those conditions.

“When we looked at maps and looked at locations and looked how the school administration was deploying its resources to utilize these facilities, we all became very comfortable and all were speaking on the same page," Rollins said.

Still, the chamber wants a solid plan in place. The last time the school board tried to implement a Facility Master Plan was in 2010. But AISD walked away from it.  AISD Trustee Robert Schneider says a Master Plan – not just “Guiding principles” – gives the Chamber more confidence that won’t abandon the plan again.

“You can have a guiding principle that just says under certain circumstances we may or may not be able to and that’s okay with us," said Schneider. "But I think they were looking for something more firm."

Austinites will vote on the district’s bond proposal May 11.