Image: Alex in the 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, obviously portrayed the budget methodology of the Conroe Independent School District in this scene involving the “Ludovico” technique of brainwashing. Rather than examining school district departments, conducting zero-based budgeting to determine whether expenditures have any purpose, or brainstorming novel ideas about methods of reducing overall spending, the school district’s Board of Trustees passively sat and received canned PowerPoint presentations providing very limited options of how much to increase salaries and spending in very general categories without any detailed deliberation with respect to the budget. In this particular photograph, actor Malcolm McDowell portrayed each and every member of the Board of Trustees as the administration brainwashed him to approve spending increases and then, otherwise, leave the school district administration alone.
Conroe, June 17 – While local voters may believe they’ve elected a Board of Trustees to the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) to represent citizen interests, as well as the purported goal of providing a quality education to children, in reality, the budget process of CISD consists of little more than the school administration telling the Board what to do, effectively brainwashed through their passive receipt of PowerPoint presentations, and the Board doing it. In the movie A Clockwork Orange, the “Ludovico” brainwashing technique changed the passive recipient’s personality. In CISD, the Board passively does what the administration wants.
On June 4, 2019, with little questioning by the Board of Trustees, the CISD Board appeared to accept passively all of the financial assumptions, including a massive salary increase for the CISD administration and a 2.5 cent tax rate increase. During the entire meeting, one Board member, Dale Inman, the lone citizen rights adherent, dared to ask a question which clearly offended the school district’s administration and the rest of the Board.
Inman dared to ask whether it’s true that the $150 million CISD is spending with PBK Architects and its chosen contractors to “refurbish” Conroe High School will not add one student seat to the school district. While Superintendent Curtis Null, ultraliberal Board President Datren Williams, and others tried to explain the massive expenditure, which could instead have gone to build an entire new school to provide the allegedly needed student capacity, ultimately they did have to answer Inman’s question with an affirmative “yes.” CISD is spending $150 million on Conroe High School to remodel the school in ways to which Conroe residents greatly object, while not adding one seat of capacity!
After Inman dared to ask that offending question, the remainder of the Board and the administration seemed to ostracize him during the rest of the meeting. (Apparently, the Ludovico brainwashing technique doesn’t work on sincere conservative political activists.)
Despite the low rate of inflation or cost-of-living adjustment of approximately 1.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CISD’s administration, in the current Fiscal Year 2018-19 Budget, instructed the Board to approve a 2.5% salary increase for the administration, a 3% salary increase for support positions, and a 2.7% salary increase for teachers. CISD’s administration has directed the Board to pass similar increase this year, with the slight change that the teacher and support funding increases are coming from State funding under House Bill 3, the omnibus school finance measure passed during the 86th Legislative Session and which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on June 12, 2019.
The flushing sound which is your money: CISD’s budget demands in the June 4 PowerPoint brainwashing session
Here is the centerpiece of CISD’s PowerPoint presentation to the Board on June 4 during the so-called “budget workshop” which clearly was just a scene out of A Clockwork Orange.
It’s important to note that property tax appraisals will rise 5.5%, according to the school district’s projections. That, of course, will take a big chunk out of the 7 cent “compression” of the maintenance and operations portion of the CISD’s tax rate, which is currently $1.04 per $100 valuation and will, by State mandate, go down to $0.97 per $100 valuation. The source of the funds to pay for the temporary tax rate reduction? A state surplus of tax dollars, which you paid. The school district will lose nothing in tax dollars which they’re able to spend under House Bill 3. The so-called “compression” will merely come from another pot of money in Austin.
The one big difference, however, is that, under House Bill 3, the school district must stop its current practice of spending $10 million per year of maintenance and operations funds to reduce debt. Therefore, CISD’s administration is proposing a 2.5 cent rate increase in the interest and debt portion of your tax rate in order to make up for the $10 million of operations funds, which should go towards education, and which CISD has instead in the past used to support its massive vendor-driven capital expenditures.
Here’s how it all works.
The school district projects a 1.6% increase in students for the next school year. CISD intends to spend 6.9% more in its operations budget, because no one has made any effort whatsoever to find cost savings or to conduct zero-based budgeting. Instead, CISD merely uses the previous years’s budget as a “base line” on which to add additional spending without any department-by-department examination. (Clearly, a detailed review of the Purchasing and Construction Departments, the worst offenders of spending, won’t ever seem to fit in any of the CISD administration’s PowerPoint slides.)
By “Beginning Revenue,” CISD means that’s how much in tax dollars the school district took under its 2018-19 maintenance and operations budget. “Beginning Expenditures” mean this year’s spending.
The slide reveals that CISD has provided almost no explanation whatsoever for the $495.46 million “base line” of spending and has no intention whatsoever of allowing the brainwashed Board to conduct a careful examination of all of those expenditures. The Ludovico method of brainwashing ultimately demands blind acquiescence.
Note, however, that CISD has added in another 3.0% salary increase for its administrative employees! That increase is over and above the 2.5% increase for administration during this year’s budget. The 4.0% salary increase for teachers, librarians, and nurses doesn’t show any sort of compassion for the front-line of public education. Rather, it’s State-mandated under House Bill 3.
The following slide shows CISD’s plan to increase the interest and debt portion of the tax rate by 2.5 cents per $100 valuation, so that local taxpayers don’t receive too much of a break.
Notice the tax rate increase will occur without passage of CISD’s $807 million bond referendum! CISD would have increased that 2.5 cents regardless of whether voters had also approved other gigantic tax increases as part of the $807 million bond and tax hike, which voters fortunately defeated on May 4.
The sickest part of the presentation was this last slide in which CISD presented the Board of Trustees with four salary increase “options.” Please note that all four options involve a substantial salary increase for the administration.
The Board of Trustees brainwashing session didn’t include an option of giving the “administrators” a 0% salary increase or, more appropriately, a substantial reduction in their bloated salaries.
Here’s a Scenario 6:
- Teacher’s, Librarians, Nurses, Counselors 4% or $9.6 M
- All Others 3.5% or $2.8 M
- Administrators -20% with a reduction of $12.8 M, which would include reducing Superintendent Null’s salary to $264,000 (!)
- TOTAL = Reduction of $0.4 M!!!
Whether you live in the geographic jurisdiction of CISD or not, it’s advisable to watch this budget process closely. CISD remains the driving force behind all property tax appraisal as well as tax rate increases throughout Montgomery County through the governmental entity’s control of the election of the policymaking Board of Directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District. The CISD administration is out of control. That’s because the Board of Trustees consists of seven (or possibly six) automatons.