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Board Calls November Bond Election; Focuses on Infrastructure to Support Workforce

The Austin Community College District Board of Trustees voted to move forward with a November 2014 bond election that addresses only the college’s most urgent needs, cutting nearly $115 million from the recommendation of a citizen advisory committee. The package focuses on building the infrastructure to support the Central Texas workforce into the future.

“Over years of discussions, the board has listened to employers, taxpayers and the ACC community,” says Jeffrey Richard, chair of the ACC Board of Trustees. “This proposal takes into account the impact on the public and allows us to ensure a pipeline of skilled workers throughout the region for the jobs of today and tomorrow, while keeping college affordable.”

The board divided the bond package into two propositions: one centered on planning and construction for future growth, and a second proposition to fund existing campus growth, renovations, health and safety issues, and sustainability improvements. The propositions total approximately $386 million—which would amount to a two cent increase in the property tax rate to be phased in over time. For a home valued at $200,000, that would be an increase of $39 per year after the standard homestead exemption, or an additional $16 per year for seniors and homeowners with disabilities.

Trustees also called for a public vote in November on incrementally increasing the college’s property tax cap to, among other things, help stabilize tuition costs, cover deferred maintenance, and expand programs for veterans and adult learners. The property tax cap has increased only once in ACC’s 41-year history.

“I’m grateful for the board’s thoughtful approach to calling this election,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO. “We take going to taxpayers very seriously. This method allows voters to see the different needs of the college and have their voices heard about the best way to proceed.”

The board began planning for the election several years ago and formed the citizen advisory committee in 2013. The committee presented a list of projects it considered urgent after months of study; trustees streamlined those projects to form the bond proposals that will be on the ballot in November. The projects are focused on:

  • Creating flexible facilities that will enhance student success and respond to changing workforce needs;
  • Providing services in high-growth communities in the ACC taxing district; and
  • Renovating aging sites to ensure health and safety.

“ACC plays a unique and vital role in economic development. There is no other entity in our region equipped to educate and train 40,000+ students every year while responding quickly to the needs of business and industry,” says Tom Glenn, former Leander ISD superintendent and one of the chairs of the citizen advisory committee. “Through these propositions, ACC can continue to put residents to work in well-paying jobs and ensure Central Texas can handle the growth coming our way.”

The November 2014 ballot will include:

Proposition 1 – Planning and Construction for Future Growth

  • Highland Campus (phase II, which includes repurposing Highland Mall to serve as a regional workforce research and development center, regional health sciences center including STEM simulator lab, digital and creative media center, culinary and hospitality center, and incubator space)
  • New campus in Leander
  • Acquisition of new property for regional workforce training center in southeast Travis County

Proposition 1 total: $224.8 million

Proposition 2 – Existing Campus Growth, Renovation, Health, Safety, and Sustainability

  • Renovations for health, safety, technology, and sustainability throughout the district
  • Renovations to career training program facilities after relocations to Highland Campus
  • Round Rock Campus expansion
  • Regional first responders training center at Hays Campus
  • Workforce training center at Elgin Campus, to house veterinary technology courses and other career training programs

Proposition 2 total: $161.17 million

Total general obligation bonds: approximately $386 million; phased-in tax impact of approximately 2 cents

Maintenance and Operations Tax Cap Election

  • One cent increase in 2016
  • One cent increase in 2018
  • One cent increase in 2020

The college’s current maintenance and operations tax rate (fiscal year 2014) is $0.09 (9 cents) per $100 valuation. If all three measures are approved, the total tax impact is estimated to be five cents, phased in over time. The college’s total tax rate at that point would remain below the current state average for community colleges, about $0.16 (16 cents). ACC provides a $5,000 standard homestead exemption and an additional $115,000 exemption for seniors and homeowners with disabilities.

The college’s first and only bond election was 11 years ago, when voters approved the sale of $99 million in bonds. Projects included the construction of South Austin Campus, expansion of the Eastview Campus health sciences building, construction of the Rio Grande Campus parking garage, expansion of Cypress Creek Campus, and more. At that time, voters also authorized raising the maintenance and operations tax cap to $0.09 (9 cents). Registered voters in ACC’s taxing district are eligible to vote in the election; the taxing district includes the city of Austin as well as the Austin, Leander, Manor, Del Valle, Round Rock, Elgin, and Hays school districts.

“ACC is an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars, and because the college has the largest tax base in Central Texas, each cent goes further,” says Chair Richard. “We have done a lot of good for our students and community without going to voters for a long time. But our region is growing quickly, and we must do more.”

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