Conroe ISD is “lyin’, cheatin’, stealin'” like a Philadelphia lawyer to try to “win” $807 million bond referendum

Conroe ISD is “lyin’, cheatin’, stealin

Conroe, April 27 – Conroe Independent School District (CISD) clearly will lie, cheat, and steal to win the voter referendum on an $807 million bond set for May 4, 2019, with Early Voting continuing for four more days until April 30. In recent days, CISD has made clear that, with all of the money at stake for the bureaucracy at the top of the school district, they’ll do just about anything to manipulate voters to approve the bond.

Teachers face terrible perils with this proposed $807 million bond and tax hike, because the package adds $1.3 billion of interest payments on debt alone over the next two decades, which such funds will come directly out of otherwise available resources for teacher compensation and instruction materials. Students face horrible perils as well, because the bond will result in increased school taxes of 61.7% from current levels (through tax rate and property tax appraisal increases) while providing no measurable improvements in educational outcomes, facts which CISD has admitted in writing.

With so much money up for grabs by CISD’s bureaucrats, they’ll do anything to “win,” including lying, cheating, and stealing.

Lying

On February 18, 2019, when he spoke to the Montgomery County Tea Party, Curtis Null, CISD’s Superintendent, admitted that CISD doesn’t know on what it will spend $24 million for “safety and security,” because, as Null explained, “we’re waiting to see what the Texas Legislature wants us to do.”

On April 15, 2019, when he gave a pro-bond-advocacy speech to a tiny group of teachers and parents at Oak Ridge High School, Null mirrored the same comments he’s made in all of his bond advocacy presentations. Null made clear that CISD doesn’t yet know on what they’ll spend the “safety and security” money.

With the community increasingly questioning the amount of the $807 million bond and tax hike, as well as the individual line item expenditures within it, CISD has now tried a different tack. Trustee Scott Moore, one of the four liberal pro-Big-Government Trustees on the seven-member Board, claims that “safety and security” is one of CISD’s top priorities, even though it is only $24 million of an $807 million bond package. That is 2.97% of the total bond expenditures which CISD wants. Moore suggested that CISD will utilize funds to add “security entry vestibules” at the district’s high schools.

Nevertheless, nowhere in CISD’s 50-page spreadsheet detailing individual line item expenditures for the $807 million bond is there any mention of any “secure entry vestibule” or words to that effect with the sole exception of the Jett Center, where CISD proposes to add a “secure entry vestibule” costing taxpayers $107,812.50 for the Jett Center, a building CISD has indicated it intends to vacate!

CISD didn’t even mention “secure entry vestibules” for any of the school district’s high schools in the actual bond package showing line item expenditures which the school district presented to the Facilities Planning Committee. The Facilities Planning Committee notebook has one page where one line mentioned secure entry vestibules for the high schools but the notebook makes clear that there has been no budgeting or planning for those vestibules and they may not necessarily become a part of what CISD actually spends.

Either way, “safety and security” are very low priorities in the $807 million bond package. In fact, CISD proposes to spend approximately the same amount of funds, $23.6 million, on installation of Astro-turf at some of the elite sports fields as what the school district has set aside in this gargantuan bond package for all of “safety and security.”

Cheating

The Texas Ethics Commission makes very clear that the advertising of the sort which CISD is sending using public resources crosses the line and violates the Texas Election Code. The Commission has explained in its regulations, “it is important to remember that the Texas Election Code prohibits the use of school district resources to produce or distribute political advertising in connection with an election.

Section 255.003 of the Election Code provides as follows:

(a) An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.

(b) This section does not apply to a communication that factually describes the purposes of a measure if the communication does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure.

(c) A person who violates this section commits an offense.  An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.”

Conroe ISD may present “factual information” but it can’t cross the line into advocacy nor may it cross the line into any sort of “call to action.” CISD has crossed both of those lines by many miles.

CISD has a bond advocacy website which presents its argument for the bond. Null has gone all over the geographic territory of CISD to present his argument in favor of passage of the bond but he refuses to appear in any forum where anyone seeks to present all of the facts with respect to the proposed $807 million bond and tax hike.

In recent days, CISD’s schools have sent out e-blasts advocating passage of the bond.

Yesterday, Friday, April 26, 2019, at 10:57 a.m., The Woodlands College Park High School sent an e-blast calling all parents to action, a clear violation of Texas Ethics Commission regulations and the Texas Election Code:

“It is time to teach your kids and impact our country for the rest of their lives.  Take your kid to the polls.  Show them how important it is to participate in our democratic society.  Your vote matters.  Have your voice heard.  Let them see the process at work!

“I have attached information about the CISD bond referrendum.  Lets ROCK the VOTE and have the highest voter turnout in history.

“Voter apathy needs to be in the past, active citizenship is needed now and for all future elections.

“It does not take long and it is worth the time.”

Public tax dollars funded that political advertisement. Parent emails were the target of the e-blast.

On Thursday, April 25, 2019, CISD took their cheating one step farther. The school district sent an e-blast to teachers urging them to vote “FOR” the $807 million bond and tax hike. Sadly, voting in favor of the bond is directly against teachers’ interests, as discussed above.

Stealing

What CISD has continued to fail to acknowledge is the massive size of the tax hike connected with the $807 million bond.

First, in all of Superintendent Curtis Null’s pro-bond-advocacy speeches, Null and CISD have claimed that there will only be a 3 cent tax rate increase but neither Null nor CISD have discussed the other major component in the property tax calculation, property tax appraisals. Let’s take the average home property tax appraisal in CISD, $268,518, according to Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae.

The full equation follows:

(Tax Rate) x (Property Tax Appraisal) = School Taxes Payable.

To understand the tax increase citizens should expect from CISD $807 million bond, here is a calculation of the current tax on the average home within the school district, using the number which Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae has provided:

(Tax Rate = $1.28 per $100 valuation) x (Average Home Tax Value in CISD = $268,518) = $3,437.03 school taxes payable.

If Null’s and CISD’s lies were true about the 3 cent tax rate increase as the only tax increase connected to the $807 million bond, the increase in taxes would only be

(Tax Rate = $1.31 per $100 valuation) x (Average Home Tax Value in CISD = $268,518) = $3,517.59 school taxes payable.

Since $3,517.59 minus $3,437.03 equals $80.56, that tax increase sounds quite low, doesn’t it?

While the tax rate will grow 3 cents per $100 valuation, CISD will push the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD) to increase property tax valuations by much larger amounts at a far faster rate of growth. CISD largely controls MCAD’s Board of Directors, by having the largest voting bloc in MCAD Board elections. The MCAD Board sets property tax re-appraisal policy. By aggressive reappraisals, CISD and other taxing entities in Montgomery County can hide behind huge property tax appraisal increases while they claim to keep their tax rates steady.

In a recent round of political campaign literature, first under the endorsement for the $807 million bond from CISD Board President Datren Williams, CISD has admitted its complicity in pushing property tax appraisals through MCAD but the school district claims the appraisal growth as a result of the bond will only be 1.7% per year. Here’s the latest pro-bond-advocacy advertisement from CISD:

Right there in plain white letters is the false statement: “Conroe ISD is basing their assumptions on a 1.7% appraised value growth.”

CISD’s political propaganda directly contradicts its own data on its pro-bond-advocacy website. Here’s what CISD has published on its bond advocacy website:

Source: Conroe Independent School District.

Right there in the column entitled “Assessed Valuation Growth Rate (%)” to the immediate left of the yellow column on the chart, CISD’s Finance Office disclosed that, from the May 2019 Bond Program, CISD taxpayers should expect the following appraised value growth rates each year:

  • 2019, 5.73%
  • 2020, 5.50%
  • 2021, 5.50%
  • 2022, 5.00%
  • 2023, 5.00%
  • 2024, 4.50%
  • 2025, 4.50%
  • 2026, 4.00%
  • 2027, 4.00%
  • 2028, 3.00%
  • 2029, 2.00%
  • 2030, 1.00%.

Clearly, CISD’s “May 2019 Bond Program” includes enormous property tax valuation growth every year. Now, to be fair, the manner in which MCAD actually implements re-appraisals is through a “pod” program wherein some areas of the county don’t see an increase in one year while others see much larger increases. For example, it’s unlikely that your property will see a 5.73% valuation increase in 2019 and then a 5.50% increase in 2020. Rather, those numbers are average increases. Instead, you’ll see much larger increases in one year. For example, many homes in Oak Ridge North have suffered 30% property tax valuation increases in the MCAD notices of assessment they just received in the past several weeks.

It’s sad, however, that either way, CISD is lying to voters in its political propaganda to foist the $807 million bond on the children and adults of CISD.

When CISD directly stated in its recent literature that there will be a 1.7% appraisal growth, in actuality, CISD has said all along that the increases will be those shown in the charge from CISD’s Finance Office.

Here’s the real tax increases, the average homeowner in CISD should expect, if the $807 million bond passes on May 4:

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