Conroe, May 8 – Although Conroe Independent School District (CISD) had little say immediately after it lost its first bond election in history on Saturday, May 4, 2019, when voters rejected an $807 million bond package and tax hike, CISD has begun to sound off and the sounds portend badly for taxpayers. Clearly, CISD didn’t understand or receive the message from voters that the school district must only come forward with a bond package which is absolutely necessary, particularly in the today’s world where the property tax burden for most Texans, particularly within the CISD, are already more of a financial burden than most people can afford.
Voters rejected the bond on a 54% (against) to 46 % (for) vote, although the actual voting on the May 4 Election Day ran almost 60% against to 40% for the proposed bond and tax hike.
On Monday, May 6, 2019, CISD Board President Datren Williams mouthed off to the Courier blog, a struggling blog which is the last remaining vestiges of The Conroe Courier, which, decades ago, was a fine local newspaper. By Williams’ remarks, it is obvious that neither Williams, the CISD Board of Trustees, nor CISD’s administration understood the message from the taxpayers: “DON’T JUST GRAB OUR MONEY; ONLY PROPOSE EXPENDITURES WHICH WILL IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES FOR OUR COMMUNITY’S CHILDREN!”
The following are Williams bizarre remarks in the Courier blog on May 6:
“’The voters have spoken, so here we are. We’re going to go back, figure out how to make the best of what we have and potentially come back to voters in November with another bond election,’” Williams said.
“Whether it’s presenting a bond with a lower dollar amount to voters or asking again for the original amount requested, Williams said there’s no way around another bond election. He said he’d support either depending on what district officials decide would be the best thing to do.
“’We have certain needs, and the district is growing. We can’t stop that. Those needs are there, and we have to prioritize and make tough decisions. This is something we have to decide collectively as a board, collaborate with the district on and see what the recommendations are and go from there,’ Williams said.”
Williams and the CISD Board of Trustees need to learn a few lessons before proceeding:
- #1: It is NOT the job of the elected Board of Trustees to allow “district officials [to] decide [what] would be the best thing to do.” The citizens elected the Board of Trustees to represent the citizens, not to act as the lackeys for CISD’s bureaucracy!
- #2: CISD must only consider expenditures which are absolutely necessary to improve educational outcomes. CISD’s administration admitted – in writing – that none of the $807 million of expenditures would improve educational outcomes. Therefore, CISD knows already of $807 million of expenditures which a future bond package, if any, should not include.
- #3: Williams job as the representative of the citizens and the taxpayers is to examine their needs. His comment, “We have certain needs…” is backwards. Williams and the CISD Board must first examine the “certain needs” of taxpayers and citizens who already are paying far too much in property taxes. CISD’s tax rate isn’t very high only because Montgomery County’s property tax valuations are extraordinarily high, so property taxes are already massive in this community. Superintendent Curtis Null never understood that problem during the past four months when he was constantly campaigning for passage of the $807 million bond. Null emphasized tax “rates” in his discussion but that is only part of the equation: Tax Rate x Property Tax Appraisal = Amount of Taxes.
- Williams and CISD must consider an important third option ather than “presenting a bond with a lower dollar amount…or asking again for the original amount requested…” CISD’s demographic study, dated January 1, 2019, reveals that CISD does not need to construct new schools for at least another seven (7) years. CISD should, therefore, wait at least another five years before trying to pass any bond.
- CISD must rein in the vendors, including PBK Architects, Durotech general contractor, and Ellisor Constructors, who have taken control of CISD policy. Around 2025, CISD should appoint an independent facilities planning committee which assesses real needs of the school district independently of any current vendors. Current vendors and CISD bureaucrats infiltrated and controlled the 2018 Facilities Planning Committee. They poisoned the process for the 2019 bond referendum from the start.
Around 2025, CISD should appoint an independent facilities planning committee which assesses real needs of the school district independently of any current vendors. Current vendors and CISD bureaucrats infiltrated and controlled the 2018 Facilities Planning Committee. They poisoned the process for the 2019 bond referendum from the start.
CISD’s Board of Trustees and its bureaucrats should take a long and hard look at the critical data pertaining to educational policy, which reveals that spending more money on educational bureaucracy and building programs does nothing to contribute to education. March 18, 2014 marks the publication of one of the most important academic articles in educational history, Andrew J. Coulson, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” Policy Analysis (No. 746), March 18, 2014. A graph summarizes the findings of Coulson, the United States Department of Education, and the National Assessment of Educational Performance:
The clear result of any objective analysis of the data is that the only winners in major increases in spending on capital construction and the growth of the administrative bureaucracy in public schools are school district vendors and the administrative bureaucrats.
CISD clearly should take the following actions:
- First and foremost, CISD must rein in administrative bureaucracy spending. Teachers suffer underpayment, but the salaries and the population of CISD’ administration are grossly bloated like the fat belly of the Publisher of Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper. Spending approximately $103 million (20.8%) out of a $495.3 million general expenditures budget on administration reflects terrible strategic management.
- Second, CISD must reform the Purchasing and Maintenance Departments. They’re known for extreme cost overruns in capital projects. Cost overruns indicate poor management, project management, and planning.
- Third, CISD must immediately spend funds out of its maintenance and operations budget – without any tax increase but, instead, from savings in reducing the expenditures on CISD’s administrative bureaucracy – on secure vestibules for school district’s high school entrances. Based upon appropriate cost estimation and project planning, all six (6) of those entrances should cost no more than a total of $800,000 to provide the security they require.
- Fourth, CISD should not even begin to consider any sort of bond or long-term debt financing, until after CISD has completed its budget process for Fiscal Year 2020, in order to complete a full evaluation – by the citizens and by the Board of Trustees independently of CISD’s administration – of whether operating funds will sufficiently support capital projects.
It’s time for Williams and the rest of the CISD Board of Trustees to learn and understand they work for the taxpayers of CISD who elect them. They don’t work for the “district officials.” The “district officials” work for the Board and the rest of the private citizens who stand at the top of the organizational chart of government.
It’s also time for officials inside of CISD to stop making irresponsible and untruthful statements for the purpose of scaring CISD employees. Null threatened teacher position and salary reductions if the bond didn’t pass, when, in fact, passage of the bond had nothing whatsoever to do with those portions of the school district’s budget. Just yesterday, Marshall Schroeder, Administrative Director of Custodial and Maintenance, told the employees of that CISD Department “we might face cutbacks in our department because the bond didn’t pass.” Schroeder either was uttering bald-faced lies or he has no understanding of how school district budgets work.
Jon Bouche, a member of the Montgomery County Republican Party Steering Committee, a Republican Precinct Chairman, Freedom & Liberty Conservatives PAC Chairman, and an elected servant, issued this statement yesterday afternoon:
“In the aftermath of the CISD Bond election, the CISD Board is shocked and dismayed that their usual playbook was ineffective this time. Over the years, they have inculcated the electorate with this notion that ‘scope creep’ and bloated estimates are both just natural and acceptable parts of the bond process and that people should just approve whatever is put before them. However, this time the people said, ‘Enough.’
“Since being told ‘no’ is unprecedented for the CISD Board, they seem to be in total denial and are now talking about doubling down and sticking with the old playbook. The smart move would be to identify what is needed, get accurate bids, and then configure a well thought out bond before putting it on the ballot. Had they done this in the first place, the bond would have been much less than $807 MILLION and it would have passed easily because the entirety of CISD wants what is best for our students, teachers and community.
“Think about it. The fact that they don’t mind spending many more thousands of dollars on another bond election that they know is going to fail should tell you something about just how irresponsible they are with the money that they have already taken from the taxpayers. I hope that they reconsider and put that money to better use but if they don’t, we will organize and work hard to replace all of them with people who are more fiscally responsible.”