AUSTIN (KXAN) — Voters could approve a bond worth more than three-quarters of a billion dollars this election cycle that would allow Austin Community College to build two new campuses and expand workforce training programs in areas like health care and manufacturing.
The ACC Board of Trustees unanimously agreed in August to put this $770 million general obligation bond on the ballot, and early voting began Monday on this proposal. If it’s ultimately approved, it would help fund improvements at every campus within its district, which includes Williamson, Travis, and Hays Counties.
The biggest portion of the bond ($200 million) would pay for the construction of a new campus in southeast Travis County. According to the bond proposal’s projects website, this center would focus on advanced manufacturing and skilled trades, like welding, as well as building construction technology.
Additionally, ACC plans to funnel $100 million apiece to fund projects at a couple of its campuses. For instance, at the Hays location, that would help pay for a “significant expansion” in its health services program, particularly in professional nursing. Meanwhile, the college intends to expand its advanced manufacturing program and create space for a “new Entrepreneurship Institute and Cyber Security Program” at the Highland campus in north Austin.
“The students that are trained and educated here at Austin Community College are the people who are going to be your nurses. They’re going to build the critical infrastructure in our community, and they are your kids. They’re your neighbors,” Dr. Chris Cervini, the vice chancellor of community and public affairs, said. “These investments are incredibly important, especially in a community that has seen so much growth, and we want to make sure that the people who grew up here, the people who live here, have the ability to enjoy the prosperity here.”
ACC board members said the college would be able to issue these bonds without raising its tax rate. However, since property values are expected to rise in the area, that would still mean an increase for taxpayers. The college’s own estimates show that leaders believe someone with a home worth $500,000 would pay up to $5 per year over the first five years, maxing out at $25 per year for the remainder of the bond.
The bond also focuses on helping students by potentially bringing more child care options at some campuses as well as more clinical counselors.
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“It’s a great opportunity to really support students through the struggles they’re having,” Dr. Ruth Reinhart, the associate vice chancellor of student support services, said. “I think, in the past, clinical counseling has really been like a taboo, and we really are making it more available for students so that they can get the services they need to be successful in their college career.”
This is the college’s third bond election — and the largest — in its history. The most recent vote happened in 2014 when voters approved $385 million in bonds that included construction of the second phase of ACC Highland and historical renovations to the main building at the Rio Grande campus.