BREAKING NEWS! Null admits Conroe ISD still hasn’t gotten true estimates of construction costs for $676 million bond on November 5 ballot

BREAKING NEWS! Null admits Conroe ISD still hasn’t gotten true estimates of construction costs for $676 million bond on November 5 ballot
A somewhat troubled Superintendent Curtis Null gave his first advocacy speech in favor of the $676 million bond CISD has thrust upon the voters in the November 5, 2019, General Election. Null spoke to a pro-spending crowd at the Woodlands Chamber today, which included liberal Steve Leakey (back to camera in green shirt) of the Voter Awareness Council, who made clear that he will campaign for passage of the bond.

BREAKING NEWS!

The Woodlands, August 16 – Despite an entire summer during which Conroe Independent School District (CISD) could go and obtain real, verifiable, and professional cost estimates for the proposed $676 million bond package the school district has placed on the November 5, 2019, ballot, Superintendent Curtis Null admitted, in response to a questioner who was trying to help him pass the bond at all costs, that the school district has failed – once again – to obtain such cost estimates to support the gargantuan bond request. The failure of CISD to obtain real cost estimates to support the massive requested funding was a huge issue which led voters to defeat the $807 million bond package on May 4, 2019. The new bond package is the same set of funding requests as the defeated bond with a few projects removed, one project added, but almost all of the same bogus cost estimated projects contained therein.

During a presentation to a very pro-spending, pro-bond group at the Woodlands Chamber’s Awareness Council, a lady tried to help Null, who was advocating in favor of the passage of the bond. She asked, “One person, who was one of the most vocal advocates against the May bond, nailed you on individual numbers. What have you done to shore up those numbers and provide real cost estimates?”

In response, Null, clearly at a loss for words (as shown in the photograph above), said, “It’s not possible to get estimates. Construction firms won’t give us estimates for 4 yrs in advance.”

What Null failed to tell the meeting, however, was that CISD had obtained such cost estimates from an architectural firm in the 2015 bond referendum.

The recurrence of $21,562.50 and other odd numbers, such as $7,187.50, throughout the cost estimates behind the Conroe Independent School District’s (CISD) $807 million bond/tax hike package on May 4, 2019, became a major issue due to the strong indicia of fraud in those numbers, according to Benford’s Law in statistics and related legal analyses of invoices with those types of numbers. CISD officials attempted to explain away the problems with those cost estimates, much to the delight of many groupies of CISD who would accept the bond package no matter what, but, in fact, their explanations actually revealed that the $807 million bond and tax hike package is much worse than previously understood.

The $676 million bond package contains the same number!

At the Woodlands Township Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2019, CISD Superintendent Curtis Null tried to explain away the odd recurrence of the number $21,562.50 as a cost estimate appearing 117 times for various different line items in the gargantuan bond package. His answer, in response to a carefully-staged question from former CISD Board member Ann Snyder, who now sits on the Woodlands Township Board, actually reveals how fraudulent the entire bond package is.

The staged colloquy between Snyder and Null after Null’s scripted presentation to the Board follows:

Ann Snyder: I do have one [question], Dr. Null. Thank you.

Null: Yes, ma’am.

Snyder: There’s a comment that was made at the very beginning. I don’t know if you were here, about specific numbers that you used repeatedly and one of the numbers was 21562. I’m curious were you here for that?

Null: I was not. I was at a CASA Board meeting but I can answer your question, I think.

Snyder: The comment was that 21562 sometimes it was, sometimes 2000, it was the same digits, were used over and over a multiplicity of times, to come up with the 807 [million dollars]. I think with all the residents here as well as with our board, if you are able without actually being here, if you could answer.

Null: Sure. I could speak to the process first. Everything that is included within the bond package, every line item dollar wise that is included in the package, is an estimate. None of the work has been designed. None of the work has been bid. So before anything is done through this package, everything will be competitively bid through the legal process and we will look for best value. It’s possible that things won’t match the number that you see.

[Publisher’s Note: Once again, Null and CISD have admitted repeatedly they’ve failed to obtain any actual cost estimates by takeoffs, proposals, bids, an architectural study, or quotes. CISD has simply plucked the cost of this bond and all of the line items under it out of the air. In the 2015 bond package, PBK Architects had provided a line-by-line cost estimate for every individual project in the entire bond.]

The number that you speak of an example of that, if the estimated cost of work would be $15,000, and an example that I remember as a line item in the package was adding additional HVAC air condition to a computer room, IT, in an older building to keep those servers from overheating. The estimated cost of that work is $15,000. Um from $15,000 you have to add the soft costs that are associated with that, as you well know, the legal responsibilities of a government entity that come with um our cost of doing work. So legally required architect fees, engineering fees, permitting, all the things that are associated. That’s usually a percentage somewhere between 40 and 45%. So you put that multiplier and I think the number specifically you gave, if you put a 43.75% multiplier, which is a common number that’s associated with that, you multiply that by 15,000, that gets you the number that you were speaking to. So what you see more commonly is our elementaries we’re on the 19th iteration of the exact same building and before that we were on the 15th iteration, so you see a lot of repeats in the lines, because if you’re going to do it at one of those buildings, you’re going to do it 19 times typically, so you will see some repeats. But where you go from a simple number to more of a complex number is based on that multiplier of the soft costs associated with the work. Did I hopefully answer that?

Snyder: Thank you.

Doesn’t Null’s answer explain why odd numbers such as $21,562.50 (appears 117 times in CISD’s cost estimates), $215,625.00 (12 times), $2,156.25 (29 times), $215.63 (4 times), $7,187.50 (92 times), $53,906.25 (12 times), $28,750.00 (67 times), $14,375.00 (68 times), or $1,437.50 (15 times), among many other similar numbers appear in CISD’s cost estimates? Don’t those numbers really just represent estimates one should honestly divide by 1.4375 to yield $15,000, $150,000, $1,500, $150, $5,000, $37,500, $20,000, $10,000, or $1,000? Doesn’t Null’s explanation reveal that the true fraudster is anyone who would dare question the validity of those estimates? Doesn’t Null’s explanation reveal that the true fraudster is anyone who would dare challenge the mere $807 million CISD so conservatively and thoughtfully prepared for the voters to consider and approve in a bond referendum? Isn’t it time for the community of Montgomery County to castigate the fat, uneducated ruffian who would dare challenge wonderful thoughtful stewards of the public fisc, such as Curtis Null, the CISD Board of Trustees, Charlie Riley, James Metts, and Marc Davenport?

Doesn’t Null’s explanation reveal that the true fraudster is anyone who would dare question the validity of those estimates? Doesn’t Null’s explanation reveal that the true fraudster is anyone who would dare challenge the mere $807 million CISD so conservatively and thoughtfully prepared for the voters to consider and approve in a bond referendum? Isn’t it time for the community of Montgomery County to lynch the fat, uneducated ruffian who would dare challenge wonderful thoughtful stewards of the public fisc, such as Curtis Null, the CISD Board of Trustees, Charlie Riley, James Metts, and Marc Davenport?

Isn’t it time that we follow the great leadership of CISD Board President Datren Williams who said, during the Woodlands Township Board meeting, that “people should consider the source” when they hear facts against the approval of CISD’s $807 million bond package?!

[Publisher’s Note: The Conroe ISD has admitted that there are no educational outcome metrics to support the $676 million bond package.]

Null’s “1.4375 multiplier” makes CISD’s $676 million bond package look worse

On many levels – far too many to discuss in one article in this newspaper, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper – Null’s “1.4375 multiplier” makes CISD’s $676 million bond package look a lot worse than it did before he dropped that bomb on the taxpayers in the May 4 $807 million bond package.

From a big picture standpoint, we now know that CISD’s $676 million bond package is not an $676 million bond package at all. Taxpayers, students, and parents won’t receive $676 million of value. Instead, they’ll receive value equal to

$676,000,000 divided by 1.4375 equals $470,260,870.

Another way of saying the same thing is that CISD’s bond package is really the following:

  • $470.260.870 in construction projects, plus
  • $205,739,130 in payments to architects, engineers, and lawyers.

That’s right, almost $206 million of CISD’s huge tax hike will go directly to lawyers, architects, and engineers.

Null’s “1.4375 multiplier,” the Null Multiplier, tells voters a LOT about CISD’s bond package

The Null Multiplier (1.4375 times everything) actually reveals enormous information about CISD’s bond package.

First, on one important level, CISD is lying to the voters, parents, students, and teachers of the school district. Why?

In 2014, the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO), the Texas organization of public school district administration, finance, and purchasing officers, conducted a conference on Public Education Construction. During that conference, they noted several important points about school bonds.

One of the points TASBO made to its members, which include several employees of CISD, is that there is no requirement to use an architect or engineer for any public work either (1) that involves involves electrical or mechanical engineering if the contemplated expense for the completed project is $8,000 or less, or (2) a public work that does not involve electrical or mechanical engineering if the contemplated expense for the completed project is $20,000 or less, under Section 1001.053 of the Texas Occupations Code. That makes a lot of sense. For example, if one were to repair paving or repaint a parking lot for less than $20,000, it would be positively silly to hire an engineer or architect for such a job.

Similarly, as TASBO has noted, only a new building owned by a political subdivision having construction costs exceeding $100,000 or an alteration or addition to an existing building having construction costs exceeding $50,000 must have architectural plans and specifications prepared by an architect, under Section 1051.701(a) of the Texas Occupations Code. That also makes a lot of sense.

Therefore, one must go back to all of those line items in the CISD bond package, which the school district has listed as $21,562.50, but for which CISD has applied the Null Multiplier. According to Null, CISD plucked the number $15,000 out of thin air for each of those 117 line items, since CISD has not gotten any estimates from architects, contractors, engineers, or independent parties of any sort. CISD’s administration has repeatedly agreed with Null that the numbers behind the $807 million bond are merely pulled from thin air based upon the feelings of som unidentified and faceless employee or group inside of the CISD administration. After applying the Null Multiplier, 1.4375, to the $15,000 cost estimate, one obtains the product of $21,562.50.

Therefore, just start with the first of the 117 line items in the CISD bond package which costs $21,562.50: “Armstrong Elementary: Remove and replace exterior building waterproofing sealants throughout entire facility (including all wall control joints, through wall penetrations, around all doors and windows, and joints between building and paving).”

Under the TASBO analysis and Texas law, after dividing the Null Multiplier, we know that CISD’s “estimate” for that project at Armstrong Elementary is $15,000. It’s only more than $20,000 after application of the Null Multiplier. Clearly, removing and replacing waterproofing sealants doesn’t require electrical or mechanical engineering. Therefore, there is no need whatsoever for use of engineers, architects, or lawyers on that specific line item. As a result, the Null Multiplier is completely unnecessary. CISD should have listed that line item for Armstrong Elementary as an estimate of $15,000, not $21,562.50. CISD is overcharging taxpayers $6,562.50 for that one line item.

Under the TASBO analysis and Texas law, after dividing the Null Multiplier, we know that CISD’s “estimate” for that project at Armstrong Elementary is $15,000. It’s only more than $20,000 after application of the Null Multiplier. Clearly, removing and replacing waterproofing sealants doesn’t require electrical or mechanical engineering. Therefore, there is no need whatsoever for use of engineers, architects, or lawyers on that specific line item. As a result, the Null Multiplier is completely unnecessary. CISD should have listed that line item for Armstrong Elementary as an estimate of $15,000, not $21,562.50. CISD is overcharging taxpayers $6,562.50 for that one line item.

Here’s another example of the CISD scam: “Bush Elementary School: Install additional fencing (site fence is not continuous around property)…$21,562.50.” Once again, CISD has applied the Null Multiplier completely unnecessarily in order to inflate the amount of the $807 million bond package.

There’s a more important point, however, for all of the children enrolled in CISD. In 15 to 20 years, children will be adults, who will bear the property tax burden from this over-inflated bond package, since CISD intends to amortize the bond debt over 25 years. It’s sad that this community will burden all of other children of CISD with this yolk of heavy taxation long before they even have the chance to make their own lives as adults in our community.

It’s important to note that, based upon the comments of Null at the Woodlands Township Board meeting, the entire list of cost estimates for all $676 million has gone through the Null Multiplier. Therefore, the entire $676 million bond package has suffered that artificial and, in the vast majority of instances, unnecessary, inflation.

Second, the folks at TASBO also discussed best practices for school construction and for development of bond packages to submit for voter referendum. Here’s a direct quote from the TASBO conference on school construction:

“In many cases, school districts will engage an architectural firm before a bond election to help determine what project or projects will be included in the bond election and the estimated cost of the projects.”

In 2015, CISD actually conducted the bond study in the right manner. CISD engaged PBK Architects to provide an estimate for the entire bond package and for each individual line in it. In contrast, in 2019, CISD didn’t engage any architectural firm to do such a study. CISD also didn’t ask contractors to perform takeoffs, or to provide quotes, bids, or proposals. CISD didn’t receive invoices for items CISD wants to buy with the bond money. In other words, CISD wholly failed to engage in best practices for development of bond packages in school district, as TASBO makes clear!

Third, Null’s comments at the Woodlands Township Board meeting also reveal how untruthful the entire $807 million bond package is. Not only are there instances of the fake numbers, after application of the Null Multiplier: $21,562.50, $215,625.00, $2,156.25, $215.63, $7,187.50, $53,906.25, $28,750.00, $14,375.00, $1,437.50, and many, many others.

There’s an odd group of numbers that this newspaper has not yet examined, the numbers which are entirely even.

Here are some interesting examples in the form of screen shots directly from CISD’s bond advocacy website:

Since the numbers and letters are small, here’s what those line items are from CISD’s website, as part of the $807 million bond package:

  • Collins Intermediate School, life skills addition, $120,000.00
  • Collins Intermediate School, needs gym addition, $6,000,000.00
  • Collins Intermediate School, Replace all air handling units (7 total), $1,725,000.00
  • Conroe High School, robotics lab and play field, $6,000,000.00.

Those are just a few examples of the hundreds of items on CISD’s cost estimate list which end in even zeroes like that.

Nevertheless, going back to Null’s statements to the Woodlands Township Board, there clearly is a problem. We know under Texas law and TASBO best practices, you must have architects and engineers for a $6,000,000.00 robotics lab and play field, or a $6,000,000.00 gym addition, or a $120,000.00 life skills addition, or a $1,725,000.00 replacement of air handling units.

Where is the Null Multiplier for each of those line items?! Is CISD really taking the position that the true cost of the $6,000,000.00 robot lab and play field is actually $4,173,913.04, but then with $1,826,086.96 in architect, engineering, and lawyer fees tacked on that, just by coincidence, somehow yields an exact cost of $6,000,000.00?

 

 

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