Taxpayers had established ACC with the understanding that there would be no accompanying taxes. But few anticipated the explosive growth that followed. Registration in the fall of 1980 approached 19,000 students, 700 percent more than in 1973. ACC served 40 percent as many students as the University of Texas at Austin on a budget only 5 percent as large. ACC received biennial appropriations from the Texas Legislature for instruction but not for facilities. The remainder of the school’s revenue came mostly from student tuition, which at $13 per credit hour was among the highest in Texas. ACC was one of only two Texas community colleges (the other was Houston) that received no local tax revenue, and its facilities and financial resources were severely strained.
Facing a serious financial crunch, ACC officials asked voters in Travis County to (1) make ACC a county-wide college independent of AISD with its own governing board and taxing authority, (2) approve an immediate tax levy of 4 cents per $100 property valuation, and (3) allow ACC to sell $70 million in bonds to build new campuses and renovate Ridgeview and Rio Grande.
Hostility to taxes was strong however. High unemployment and double-digit price inflation made even small taxes painful. The Legislature took a dim view of Austin’s refusal to levy local taxes to support its community college. Some lawmakers even threatened to cut ACC off from all state funding if voters did not agree to a local tax. On April 4th, Travis County voters gave their answer: a resounding “No” to any new taxes.