Why Austin ISD Can't Spend Any of Its 2013 Bond Money
In May, Austin voters approved nearly $600 million dollars in bond propositions for capital improvements in the Austin School District.
The money is allocated for technology upgrades in the classroom and district offices, and systemic repairs to facilities on campuses across the district, among other upgrades.
Six months later, the district hasn’t been able to start implementing any of the projects because it’s involved in a lawsuit with the Travis County Taxpayers Union. The group filed the lawsuit against the bonds because it claims the language is misleading.
“It’s fairly frustrating when you have imminent needs that you want to address,” says Nicole Conley-Abrams, AISD’s Chief Finance Officer. “Everything to health and safety standards in our gyms and locker rooms, roofing, there are some real critical safety issues that we cannot address that are being tied up in the lawsuit.”
This week, more than 300 of the district’s nearly 12,000 employees did not receive some of their paycheck due to a computer glitch in the district’s payroll system, one of the programs the district says it wants to upgrade with the bond for technology upgrades.
While the district is fixing the problem and expects the issue to be entirely resolved by Monday, it also says it is dealing with a decade-old system.
“It’s highly fragile. It’s taking us an enormous time, patches and fixes to run payroll and the support and development of product isn’t where we want it to be," Conley-Abrams says. "We want a best-in-class system which is why we knew it was an important issue for us to address in this upcoming bond."
In July, a court denied the TCTU’s request to block the bonds' implementation, but the TCTU appealed the decision. TCTU President Don Zimmerman called the judge's decision ridiculous. The two sides will head back to court in January.