Austin

A push for more info after KXAN highlights unfinished bond projects

AUSTIN (KXAN) - There's a call for transparency after a KXAN investigation revealed more than $140 million for bond projects voters approved between 2000 and 2013 remain unused. 

The city's Bond Oversight Commission met Wednesday, and the chair referenced the story and printed it for each commissioner. The group outlined what it expects from city staff moving forward. 

Because of KXAN's investigation, the commission has requested a complete list of projects where voters have approved bond funding, but it still hasn't been used. In some cases, more than a decade has passed since voters gave the go-ahead.

"We were aware of some bond projects that had been delayed. We weren't aware of the full number of $140.8 million though, with all of the different bond programs put together," said Keri Burchard-Juarez, who chairs the commission.

She said city staff has provided regular updates on the 2012 bond, but not as far back as 2006. Now, the commission is calling for quarterly updates on projects from that bond, including those KXAN's investigation highlights, like a police substation and courthouse that never happened. 

"Information about why those projects haven't moved forward, if there's any lessons learned that we should be taking into account for future bond programs and if there's anything that can be done with that bonding authority now," are questions Burchard-Juarez says she'd like to see answered. "Can it be spent on a different program that may be similar or in the same area?" 

Burchard-Juarez expects to have some of these questions answered in the next month.

"I think adding that piece to the mix is going to give us a fuller picture of what’s going on," she said. 

The commission says it plans to share that information and communicate with council members more frequently. 

City staff says it should have that list of projects and their status for the commission, and council, by early next week. 

The chair emphasized this is all about transparency and getting voters information they need before heading to the polls. Voters could be doing so as soon as November for a bond election. A task force recently recommended an $851 million bond. Council has until August to decide whether to put that bond to voters.

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