Conroe ISD’s $807 million bond, tax hike: three shorts (short articles about the bond)

Conroe ISD’s $807 million bond, tax hike: three shorts (short articles about the bond)

Image: Three shorts.

Conroe, May 1 – Conroe Independent School District’s (CISD) $807 million bond referendum and tax hike is set for a voter referendum on Saturday, May 4, 2019. CISD obviously set the election at a time other than a November general election in the hope that low voter turnout would help the bond pass, as the school district is pushing employees, their families, and parents to vote for the bond.

The following are three short, but nevertheless important, articles about CISD’s giant bond, which, if it passes, will result in a 61.7% tax increase over the next ten years for CISD taxpayers.

For $807 million of borrowing, students, teachers, and taxpayers are only receiving $353.2 million of hard assets

CISD has put forward a bond package unlike any other in the school district’s history. In the past, if voters approved $100 million of bond debt, they had a reasonable hope they’d see the construction of $100 million of schools, buildings, and capital equipment.

CISD’s $807 million bond set for a May 4 voter referendum is quite different and clearly focuses on what pleases the school district’s vendors who have financed the campaign and seem to have enormous control over the bureaucracy which runs the governmental entity.

Rather than receiving $807 million of buildings and other hard assets, the taxpayers of CISD will receive only $353.2 million of the type of assets normally made the subject of the bond, as the Texas Education Code requires. A stultifying 56.2% of the $807 million of bond debt will go to soft costs, which will yield no hard capital assets at all!

A stultifying 56.2% of the $807 million of bond debt will go to soft costs, which will yield no hard capital assets at all!

Here are the numbers.

The total bond debt and tax hike is $807 million:

  • $245.6 million comes off the top in legal fees, permitting fees, engineering expenses, and architectural fees, according to CISD;
  • CISD has tucked $131 million of maintenance expenses in the bond package;
  • CISD has quietly disclosed that it will spend $38.2 million on so-called “capitalized interest,” meaning CISD will make interest payments at the beginning of the debt service on the gargantuan bond out of the borrowed bond debt; and
  • CISD has set aside $39 million for “contingency.”

Those items total $453.8 million!!!

The bottom line is that for $807 million of debt, taxpayers will only receive $353.2 million of hard assets (if you consider turf, air soft gun ranges, dance floors with 4500 mirrors, and curtains for elementary school stages “hard asset.”)

CISD’s expensive corruption has swallowed the school district in one big gulp.

Do CISD taxpayers really want to pay $807 million for this “capital investment”?

CISD violates parents’ privacy, but at least knows it

On April 23, 2019, CISD sent an e-blast late in the afternoon from each of its schools to the list of parents of children enrolled in the schools. The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, confirmed, from two sources inside of CISD’s administration who have requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, that Superintendent Curtis Null instructed principals at each of CISD’s schools to utilize the parent email list for enrolled students at each of the schools in order to send the e-blast.

The e-blast directed parents to vote in the CISD bond referendum and specifically directed parents and their friends to the CISD’s bond advocacy website. The e-blast from Sally K. Ride Elementary School follows:

Conroe ISD’s unethical – and possibly illegal – e-blast from its schools to parents’ email address to campaign in favor of the $807 million bond set for voter referendum on May 4, 2019, page 1. Please note the link to the CISD’s pro-bond-advocacy page.
Conroe ISD’s unethical – and possibly illegal – e-blast from its schools to parents’ email address to campaign in favor of the $807 million bond set for voter referendum on May 4, 2019, page 2. Please note the link to the CISD’s pro-bond-advocacy flyer.

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.

CISD violates parents’ privacy, federal law with e-blast

On April 23, 2019, CISD sent an e-blast to parents of CISD students through the email server of the school district in order to campaign for the bond and to encourage parents to get their friends out to vote as well to support the $807 million tax hike.

On April 25, 2019, the Publisher of this newspaper submitted a request under the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act for the full email list of recipients of CISD’s campaign for the bond e-blast. The Publisher made clear in the request for public information:

“The purpose of my request is to do an e-blast of my own which will provide accurate and factual information about the Conroe ISD’s $807 million bond, rather than the pro-bond advocacy which Conroe Independent School District sent on or about April 23, 2019.”

On April 29, 2019, CISD’s General Counsel Carrie Galatas responded to the request for the email addresses as follows:

“On April 25, 2019, you submitted a request for information seeking the email addresses fo the parents and guardians of students who attend Sally K. Ride Elementary School. Because the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as Texas Government Code Sections 552.114 and 552.137 consider this information confidential, the District is unable to provide the requested information.”

CISD clearly violated federal privacy law contained within the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by sending out the e-blast. The regulations under the federal law make clear that a school district may only use parent email addresses to further “legitimate educational interests,” as set forth in Title 99 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 31(a).

The only circumstance in which CISD might use parent email addresses for a purpose outside of “legitimate educational interests” would be if parents had signed a written consent permitting the use of their email addresses for political mailings from the school district. The Golden Hammer has confirmed with numerous parents of Sally K. Ridge Elementary School and other CISD schools which sent similar e-blasts that they never signed such a written consent.

It’s interesting that CISD is eager to violate federal privacy law by using parents’ email addresses but the school district cites the precise statute it violated to withhold those email addresses from those it considers the political opposition.

That’s how your tax dollars work at CISD deep in the bowels of the administration’s bureaucracy.

Voter turnout

Source: Montgomery County Elections Office.

CISD’s clear strategy for the $807 million bond and tax hike referendum is to depress overall voter participation while pushing CISD employees and parents to vote for the bond. So far, CISD’s strategy appears to have worked. Only 11,031 people have voted in Early Voting or Ballots by Mail.

That total for Early Voting is 1,632 votes less than the total Early Voting in the November 2015 bond referendum, which was 12,663 votes. In the 2015 election, 13,285 people voted on the November, 2015, Election Day, so the total number of voters was 25,948.

CISD’s desire to depress voter participation clearly has worked so far with respect to the May 4 Election.

 

 

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