Apr 28, 2013 5:29 PM
AUSTIN - The Austin Independent School District's $892 million bond proposal has attracted attention because of discrepancies between proposed and budgeted costs of some projects.
The Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/11LYNwO ) reported Sunday that architects are still scrambling to adjust cost estimates for projects. The proposal is on the May 11 ballot; early voting on the bond package begins Monday.
The newspaper reports some items, such as outdoor restrooms and concession storerooms, are budgeted at $10 million but would more likely cost one-fifth of that amount. Replacing indoor bleachers at several high schools is listed at nearly $600,000 a piece, but it cost about $77,500 to replace bleachers at a an Austin high school in 2008.
A portion of the bonds is intended for projects that are still in early stages of development, such as a $10 million budget line for a solar panel project that would need the cooperation for the local utility and the city. There is also the proposed building of a $12 million medical high school that requires yet-to-be-negotiated support from the Seton Health Care Network and the University of Texas at Austin.
The bond proposal - the largest in the school district's history - was refined by Austin ISD trustees and a citizens' committee in nine months, about half of what it's taken in the past.
District spokesman Alex Sanchez said the budgets were drafted with the best information available at the time.
"The Citizen's Bond Advisory Committee spent over 1,600 hours vetting proposals by schools and departments to develop the recommendation on the scope of work," Sanchez said. "All together, the committee held over 18 public meetings and four public hearings."
Members of the citizens' bond advisory committee were questioning the tight timeline as far back as August, meeting minutes show.
Committee member and attorney John Blazier said a lot of time went into the proposal, which the school board approved in February.
"There is no perfect bond," he said. "But you have 31 people that really worked hard together, and you had a board of trustees that tried to be fair. Out of that, we got a really good bond package."
Once the proposed works are completed, leftover money would be placed in a contingency fund and any spending would have to be approved by a citizens' bond oversight committee. About $1.6 million remains unspent from the 2004 and 2008 bonds.