Image: This pie chart depicts how the Conroe Independent School District characterizes building ownership costs. Clearly, the school district understands that “life cycle” expenses and maintenance are not a part of “construction” expenses allowable under school bond financing.
Conroe, February 23 – The Conroe Independent School District (CISD) is violating a basic legal tenet of the Texas Education Code by including at least $131 million of “life cycle” and “maintenance” expenses as part of the proposed $807 million school bond and tax hike, which the school district has put before its voters in the May 4, 2019, election. Clearly, years of mismanagement, exorbitant salaries for administrators (such as Superintendent Curtis Null’s more than $330,000 per year in compensation) have caught up with the taxing authority which now seeks to finance maintenance expenses with long-term debt.
The Law in Texas
Texas law actually couldn’t be more clear: school bonds may not include expenses for maintenance or “life cycle” but may only include “the construction, acquisition, and equipment of school buildings in the district,” under Section 45.001 of the Texas Education Code. Bonds may also include funds for property acquisition and the purchase of new school buses.
It’s important to note, however, that the Education Code restricts the types of buildings the financing for which may fall within school district bonds: “school buildings,” not “training centers” or other monuments to the bloated administrative apparatus of the Conroe Independent School District, which clearly has placed bureaucrats over the interests of children’s education or the teachers who provide that education to them.
Some of what the $807 million CISD bond package contains
The restrictions on the use of funds received under bond financing under Texas law are the reason that several of Superintendent Curtis Null’s presentation of “facts” to the Montgomery County Tea Party on Monday, February 18, 2019, caught the attention of the eyes and ears of some of the education experts sitting in the audience.
Null described one large category under the proposed bond as “Life Cycle” but admitted that it’s actually $88 millions of “invasive maintenance.”
In fact, if one digs deeply into the super-secret Facilities Planning Committee Notebook (the “FPC Notebook”), which, of course, neither the CISD or its chosen political action committee has made available to the public (but, which, of course, The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper has obtained), CISD intends to spend $88,145,711.46 on maintenance items which CISD’s employees truthfully confided with the FPC members were maintenance.
Unfortunately, the $88 million of “Life Cycle” expenditures are only the beginning of the maintenance items within the $807 million bond package.
In addition to the “Life Cycle” expenditures, there are maintenance expenditures of $9,148,515.63 for College Park High School in The Woodlands, approximately $6,313,000.00 of such expenditures for Runyan Elementary School, and approximately $3,100,000.00 of such expenditures for Washington Junior High School.
There’s an interesting category which CISD clearly intended to tug at the heartstrings of voters and parents, “Safety and Security,” for which the bond package includes $24,576,592.69. Interestingly, Null admitted that CISD doesn’t know on what the school district will spend that massive amount of funds. Rather, “we’re waiting to hear if there are any legislative requirements imposed on us from Austin,” said Null on Monday.
In reality, the $807 million CISD bond package has traps and pitfalls which actually constitute maintenance throughout its many line items of expenditures. For example, while the CISD and its political action committee list The Woodlands High School only under “Growth & Sustainability” to include “Robotics Lab & Science Classrooms Addition,” in actuality, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars for items such as “wet glaze seal all deteriorated and window glazing gaskets” for which CISD taxpayers are to pay $28,750.00 in that one school alone.
The illegal expenditures on maintenance items comprise at least $131,293,819.78 on this obviously very intentionally secretive bond package.
Wider behinds require wider seats?
Part of the massive bond package is a “critical” item of $300,000.00 for “The Woodlands High School auditorium seats – critical wider seats, don’t have to sit as low, seats need to be wider.”
Interestingly, the “critical wider seats” expenditure of $300,000.00 appears nowhere in the public propaganda of CISD or its political action committee.
Perhaps, CISD should consider covering all of the auditorium seats with Astro-Turf…or maybe remove the seats altogether and just place Astro-Turf on the auditorium floor…