by Kiah Collier
Feb. 9, 2015
Texas Senate budget writers on Monday discussed the possibility of downsizing or selling the 67-acre property south of downtown Austin where the School for the Deaf has operated for more than 150 years in an effort to raise revenue and cut costs.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, launched the discussion by asking school officials whether they could run the operation on a smaller property.
“You’re sitting on some of the most expensive land in Austin,” he said, calling for a study “of the most efficient use of such acreage” in the city.
“For 159 years,” responded School for the Deaf Superintendent Claire Bugen.
Whitmire went on to suggest the state could pay for the campus’ significant deferred maintenance needs if the property was sold or downsized; Bugen said the school probably could operate on less than 46 acres.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said selling even a few acres of the property could net “double-digit millions.”
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, did not object to the discussion but said his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee should proceed cautiously and expressed concern that any money from the sale of the property stay with the school.