Conroe, Oak Ridge North, and The Woodlands, April 18 – The Children’s Hope PAC, the citizens organization which citizen funds have entirely supported (as opposed to the pro-bond forces whom school district corporate vendors have largely financed), has presented the factual argument against Conroe Independent School District’s (CISD) $807 million bond in several presentations, including the Conroe City Council, the Oak Ridge North City Council, and the Panther Creek Village Association Board of Directors in The Woodlands. This article responds to the requests of many readers of The Golden Hammer to provide the outline of the Children’s Hope PAC’s presentation to explain why voters should reject the bond in the May 4, 2019, election, with Early Voting from April 22 to 30.
The entire outline of the Children’s Hope PAC’s basic presentation follows:
The Children’s Hope PAC, in all of its work to provide factual information about the CISD’s $807 million bond, in response to CISD’s presentations which are merely pro-bond advocacy opinions, has found not one person who opposes public education. The Children’s Hope PAC very much believes that our community should provide the necessary resources to support our children and their teachers in the effort to provide an excellent education.
Sadly, educational outcomes have nothing whatsoever to do with CISD’s $807 million bond, as CISD has admitted. CISD has repeatedly said, through Superintendent Null and others, that CISD has based the bond package entirely on demographics.
This presentation addresses three factual issues with respect to the $807 million bond and tax hike. By the way, it clearly is a tax hike. CISD has made clear that with both a 3 cent tax rate increase and with aggressive property tax appraisal increases, which the school district will push through the Appraisal District (which CISD largely controls through election of its Board of Directors which sets reappraisal policy), CISD taxpayers will bear at least a 61.7% increase in property taxes during the next ten years.
The three factual issues are (1) CISD’s failure to include real cost estimates in the bond package so the $807 million bond suffers from gross inflation of costs, (2) CISD’s demographic study actually concludes that CISD should not issue the bond, and (3) the $807 million bond suffers from a terrible process which did not allow for open and robust consideration of what CISD actually needs as opposed to what the administration wants.
Please note that all of this information comes directly from CISD.
CISD’s failure to include real cost estimates in the bond package so the $807 million bond suffers from gross inflation of costs
$21,562.50 is the fact which represents the fundamental problem with CISD’s bond proposal. If you examine the backup 50-page spreadsheet where the cost estimates underlying the $807 million bond supposedly are, you find the first two pages shown above.
$21,562.50 is a cost estimate number which appears 117 times and it is NOT for the same type of item recurring frequently. The waterproofing of Armstrong Elementary School is $21,562.50. Installing additional fencing at Bush Elementary School is $21,562.50. Adding lightning protection at Caney Creek High School’s auditorium is $21,562.50.
Moving the decimal around $21,562.50 yields some interesting numbers as well. $2,156.25 appears as a cost estimate 29 times in CISD’s figures. $215,625.00 appears 12 times. $215.63 appears four times. The yellow highlights in the two pages above are some of the recurring numbers.
$7,187.50 appears 90 times and moving the decimal around for that number yields dozens of other CISD “cost estimates.” Adding $46,000 to that number also yields a number of the cost estimates. $53,906.25 appears 12 times. $28,750.00 appears 67 times. $1,437.50 appears 15 times.
That should make you think of Benford’s Law in statistics, a logarithmic equation, which in real English basically holds “When numbers appear more often than they should, that’s a red flag you have a questionable list or invoice.”
CISD has admitted in writing that they failed to take any measurements, do takeoffs, obtain bids, get proposals, obtain estimates, or do an architectural study to support any of the cost estimates. All of the cost estimate numbers – all $807 million of them – are fake numbers which someone inside of CISD’s administration pulled out of the air. One Oak Ridge North City Councilman refers to the entire package of $807 million of estimates as “spitballs.”
The pricing appears outrageous.
For example, on page 37 of the 50 page spreadsheet, there’s one item “McCulloch Junior High School: Reseal restripe south driveway asphalt…$21,562.50.” The driveway is 24 feet wide by 100 feet long. According to Home Depot, that process involves the following:
Step 1. Get the equipment:
- Asphalt Sealer, $224.34 for 2400 square feet;
- Broom or squeegee, $13.99 x 2 = $27.98;
- Rubber gloves, $15.97 x 2 = $31.94;
- Crack compound, 20 gallons at $99.80;
- Trowel or putty knife, $11.67 x 2 = $23.34;
- Detergent, $7.47 x 2 = $14.98;
- Commercial driveway paint, $187.50;
- Labor (1.5 days ($15 per hour)) = $360;
- Performance bond = $500.
Total cost = $1,469.88
According to the American Institute of Architects, it is appropriate to add another 30% for profit and overhead.
Total cost with profit and overhead = $1,910.84. CISD has inflated the price 11.28 times.
Step 2. Remove gas or oil stains with detergent.
Step 3. Remove grass from cracks.
Step 4. Fill in cracks with crack compound, using the putty knife or trowel, and then drive your car over the compound several times to compress it.
Step 5. Sweep the driveway clean, hose it down, let it dry for 24 hours.
Step 6. Using a broom or squeegee, apply the asphalt sealer and allow it to dry for about an hour.
CISD had admitted that they’ve added 43.75% to every line item cost estimate on the 50-page spreadsheet for lawyer fees, architects, and engineers. That doesn’t make any sense. Most of the items would be under $20,000, so under the Texas Education Code, there is no requirement for architects or engineers.
Does CISD really need a lawyer in order to reseal and restring an asphalt driveway?!
With the 43.75% cost for unnecessary lawyers, architects, and engineers, we know that CISD has inflated the $807 million bond package by approximately $245,608,700. That’s a lot of money.
When CISD did their last bond in 2015, they had received architectural estimates for every single line item of costs from an outside architectural firm. For an $807 million bond, CISD should have obtained real estimates rather than “spitballing” the costs.
CISD’s demographic study actually concludes that CISD should not issue the bond
Here’s the fifth page of CISD’s demographic study:
This study has a chart at the bottom very similar to the chart CISD has used in all of its pro-bond-advocacy presentations showing that the demographic consultant projects the student population at 76,560 by the 2028-29 school year. The current student enrollment, per CISD, is 63,091 students.
What CISD left out of the analysis, however, is the current student capacity for CISD’s schools right now.
CISD previously indicated that the school district would not build new schools or consider rezoning until student enrollment reached 120% of capacity. When the Children’s Hope PAC caught the school district in a major mistake – because the 120% level would indicate there is no need for the $807 million bond package at all at present (!) – CISD changed its tune and claimed that it adopted a new policy that it would not build new schools or consider rezoning until student enrollment reached 110% of capacity. CISD has never adopted that new policy in any Board discussion since CISD made the initial 120% of capacity pronouncements.
There’s a much bigger problem, however. With the addition of Suchma Elementary in 2019-20 and Stockton Junior High School (and closing of Washington Junior High School) in 2020-21, CISD’s student enrollment capacity will be 72,680, by 2021 without the $807 million bond.
CISD will not reach 100% of student enrollment capacity until 2025-26. CISD will not reach 110% of student enrollment capacity at all under the demographic study’s projections.
Under CISD’s analysis and policy, even the recent phony iteration of that policy, the demographic study does not support the $807 million bond at all.
The $807 million bond suffers from a terrible process which did not allow for open and robust consideration of what CISD actually needs as opposed to what the administration wants
CISD admitted it has no “bids, estimates, calculations, and invoices” for the cost estimates behind the $807 million bond and no “takeoffs supporting” the cost estimates!
CISD didn’t listen to its Facilities Planning Committee, which the administrators recommended to the Board of Trustees for appointment. Rather, CISD told the Facilities Planning Committee what package CISD wanted, and the Committee obliged.
On the recommendation of CISD’s administrative bureaucracy, CISD’s Board of Trustees appointed a Facilities Planning Committee which had 27 “community members” who met with 14 CISD administrators, who ran the Facilities Planning Committee meetings while the community members mostly listened. In December, 2018, the Facilities Planning Committee then regurgitated back to the CISD administration the $827 million bond back, which the CISD administration wanted to hear.
CISD’s administration proposed to the Board of Trustees at a January 15, 2019, meeting that CISD could spend $20 million of its cash on hand for some of the projects, so the Board then rubber-stamped the CISD administration’s $807 million bond package to send to the voters for approval.
There was a small problem along the way when Dale Inman, a conservative activist who had recently won election to the CISD Board of Trustees, proposed a “needs” versus “wants” bond of $304 million as a substitute for the $807 million bloated package. Inman is a problem, because he dares to think outside of what the CISD administration tells him to think and say.
Don’t worry; Inman’s proposed $304 million bond package substitute died for lack of a second. By the way, Inman is the only member of the Board of Trustees who refuses to abide by the CISD’s administrations so-called “code of conduct” which prohibits Board of Trustees members from fulfilling their statutory duty under the Texas Education Code to manage the district. The other six Board members have agreed – in writing – to abdicate their duty to the CISD bureaucracy, which doesn’t permit them to investigate or oversee the management and operation of the school district.
The following is a partial list of what Inman proposed to leave out of the bond package:
Clearly, any sort of robust discussion at the Board of Trustees level of CISD is far beyond what the school district’s bureaucratic administration would condone in a top-down decision methodology. Inman never had an opportunity to discuss those matters at the January 15 Board meeting, as CISD’s Board President gaveled Inman down.
After the Board approved the $807 million bond package and sent it forward to the voters, CISD began an indoctrination process. The main aspect of the advocacy is CISD has sent Superintendent Curtis Null, a licensed massage therapist and holder of a doctorate in the nonacademic field of “professional leadership,” into the community to advocate for the bond.
Null denies that he advocates. That’s utterly silly. Null provides a canned speech everywhere he goes which argues in favor of the $807 million bond package based upon CISD’s 2018 demographic study (dated January 1, 2019), which actually makes the argument against the bond, since the school district doesn’t reach 120% capacity of schools even during the next ten (10) years.
Null usually won’t answer questions. Null won’t debate. Null refuse to appear on “It’s Hammer Time” to make his presentation. In fact, the following organizations have helped to protect Null:
The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce only allowed Null to speak to several of its committees and to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Conroe Chamber of Commerce only allowed Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Greater Houston Builders Association only allowed Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Houston Area Realtors, Montgomery County Chapter, only allowed Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Conroe Rotary only allowed Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The pro-bond political action committee, which largely overlaps with the CISD’s Facilities Planning Committee, only allowed Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Woodlands Rotary will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.
The Liberty Belles Republican Women won’t allow anyone to speak about the bond.
Meanwhile, two organizations, which heard from both sides, the Texas Patriots PAC and the Montgomery County Tea Party, both endorsed “NO” votes with respect to the $807 million bond.
It’s a terrible bond package. CISD voters should vote the $807 million bond package and tax hike down and require the district to start the process over from the beginning with full community involvement and transparency and openness which are sorely lacking in this proposed referendum.