by BRAD ROLLINS
A state appellate court on Wednesday dismissed a Kyle dentist’s lawsuit challenging the validity of last November’s election in which Hays CISD voters opted to join the Austin Community College taxing district.
A month after the annexation measure passed with a comfortable 59 percent, Ray Wolbrecht filed a lawsuit in Hays County district court that argued the college district did not accurately inform voters of the full tax impact they could face by joining the taxing district, as they are required to do by law.
Later, the case was moved to Travis County and consolidated with a lawsuit ACC filed that sought to affirm the college district’s new, expanded boundaries and validate its authority to issue debt for the new campus. A week later, a judge ordered Wolbrecht to post a $3 million bond to cover, in the event his suit failed, the cost of delays in issuing bonds to pay for a new campus in Kyle.
The lawsuit was dismissed and Wolbrecht appealed, saying “allowing courts to consolidate Election Contests with Bond Validation suits deprives all but the wealthiest citizens of the right to contest elections.”
But a three-judge panel said in an opinion published this week that the court does not have jurisdiction because Wolbrecht challenged the lawsuits’ consolidation, not the bond requirement itself.
“In challenging the consolidation order, Wolbrecht does not complain of the trial court’s order requiring him to post bond, nor does he complain about the amount of the bond. It is undisputed that he failed to post the required bond. …When a bond has not been posted as required, a court does not have jurisdiction to consider appellate issues beyond those relating to the security bond requirement,” Chief Justice J. Woodfin Jones wrote.
The suit’s dismissal clears the way for ACC to borrow money to start construction of the campus, planned for 96 acres on Kyle Parkway near Kohler’s Crossing in the commercial portion of the Plum Creek development.
ACC had originally proposed a $45.8 million, 72,000 square foot campus, with a target opening date of August, 2013. Following the successful Hays annexation election – and the defeat in nearby San Marcos – ACC announced plans after the election to expand the Kyle campus to a $55.8 million, 100,000 square foot facility.
However, the higher borrowing costs will result in a smaller campus for Hays County to the tune of about $10 million, college officials said.
“The delay caused by this baseless legal challenge was unfortunate, but our planning throughout this process will let us move forward as quickly as possible,” ACC President Stephen B. Kinslow said. “The actions of one resident will not stop the college from delivering on our promises to the community at large.”
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