The 2013 Austin Homecoming court sits on the Knowlton Auditorium stage in September 2013. Knowlton is one of the areas that will be renovated next year -- Herald file photo
The 2013 Austin Homecoming court sits on the Knowlton Auditorium stage in September 2013. Knowlton is one of the areas that will be renovated next year -- Herald file photo

Archived Story

AHS ready for $7.6M in renovations in 2015

Published 11:10am Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Austin Public Schools Board approved selling about $7.6 million in bonds for renovations to AHS and Knowlton Auditorium at its regular meeting on Monday evening in the Austin City Council Chambers.

About $5.3 million in general obligation alternative facilities bonds will be used for upgrading the more than 20-year-old heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems at AHS, and $2.3 million in general obligation capital facilities bonds will go toward upgrading Knowlton Auditorium’s sound and electrical systems. The plans for the auditorium also currently include renovating the open concourse area, interior of the auditorium and making one wall removable for gym access.

“It’s a work in progress right now, but it would be very beneficial to be able to open that up into the gymnasium so they can utilize the seating in the auditorium, like they did many years ago,” Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts said.

The projects are set to take place next summer and were planned to take place together due to the amount of construction each project will require. The bonds will be issued around February of 2015, although if interest rates rise school officials may issue the bonds sooner to stay at a lower rate.

“We knew that we had to do the high school upgrades to the HVAC system and we knew that was going to be expensive, because it’s a big building,” Stotts said.

The alternative facilities bonds, or the money used to renovate the HVAC system, could increase the school district levy by an estimated 3.8 percent. It hasn’t been determined whether the change will show up this fall’s or on next fall’s taxes; it depends on when the bonds are issued. There may be no impact next year.

“We just don’t know the details at this point,” Stotts said.

Yet the estimated property tax impact may be less. If other areas of the levy go down, the overall impact may be less.

“We’re going to try and keep the tax impact to a minimum if at all possible,” Stotts said. “We try and manage that, we’re sensitive to increases.”

The capital facilities bonds will not impact the levy, as principle and interest payments will be made out of the general fund. The Austin Public Schools District already has a budget in place that will now go toward paying those bonds.

The alternative facilities bonds are 20-year bonds, while the capitol facilities bonds are 15-year bonds. The district used a similar concept when paying for I.J. Holton Intermediate School’s construction.

“Nobody likes property tax increases, but the board felt that it was an action they needed to take in order to keep our facilities current,” Stotts said. “We’re trying to be proactive here, put in new systems before the old systems fail.”

The district has discussed the project since I.J. Holton Intermediate School’s construction was completed.

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