What’s next after failed bond referendum?

Published 8:01 am Thursday, April 11, 2019

After tallying the votes, taxpayers in the Austin Public Schools District have spoken — no to the bond referendum.

Tuesday’s special election, asked residents to approve a $24.888 million school referendum package that would have allowed the building of 16 new classrooms, a gymnasium and office space, a kitchen and cafeteria remodel and new playground installation, all of which would have been added to Woodson Kindergarten Center.

However, 1,692 votes (53.04 percent) were cast against the referendum, while 1,498 (46.96 percent) said yes.

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For months, APS officials and Vote Yes Committee worked to get information out to the district’s voters and to inform them on the upcoming project proposal as well as hosting dialogue with the community on the referendum and the necessity of needing the public’s vote.

Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz

“You never expect to lose; the key was that we had a lot of community support,” said Superintendent David Krenz. “All the presentations were positive and people asked good questions. We had a great referendum committee that worked hard to inform people. It is what it is.”

However, with the failed referendum, voters may have said no for the project, but the issue of the district running out of space won’t go away any time soon.

Krenz noted that it’s possible that the district could revisit approaching voters with another bond referendum in the future, but that would be left up to the Austin School Board to make that decision. The lack of learning spaces has been an ongoing issue since the CLC moved to Queen of Angels back in 2005.

“It’s been ongoing since day one,” he said. “We need classroom space, and that’s why we were trying to do this referendum. It takes other funding revenues to fund it. It takes money.”

There weren’t any other known plans if the bond referendum were to fail. It was previously reported that the district would need to continue leasing space from Queen of Angels Church for early childhood programs at the current level, which would mean between 40 to 50 students will remain on the waiting list and possibly go unserved.

“I think a lot of people think of it as daycare, and we’re mandated by federal and state governments to educate kids with special needs or low socioeconomic students,” Krenz said. “That’s the message that I didn’t do a good job getting through.”

However, Queen of Angels will continue to be leased to the APS district through 2020. The failed referendum did not mean that there would be no space for early childhood education to continue operating, but it does mean that district officials will have to return to the drawing board.

“We still have our facility, we aren’t out on the street,” Krenz said. “We will continue to lease and look for other facilities to help in allowing us to meet the needs of families with quality early childhood education, and that does not mean taking away people’s daycare. That’s critical.”

For now, it’s business as usual for APS. They will continue leasing space from the church, and search for other potential spaces for early childhood programming.

Despite the outcome, Krenz stated that he held no ill will toward the results, rather he took it as another opportunity to continue working toward improving the quality of education for families in APS.

“Thanks to all for their hard work and for the community taking the time to get out and vote and asking good questions about the referendum,” Krenz said. “I never think poorly on whether someone votes yes or no. This community has been supportive of our schools. You have to make a decision: can you afford the tax increase? This isn’t about the project, it’s about raising taxes and that’s what the vote is. Do you wanna raise taxes on yourself? Times are tough and we know that.”