Image: A crowd of fifty-seven (57) people, seven of whom were under the age of ten (10) and approximately twenty (20) of whom were wearing Conroe Independent School District employee badges, packed into the Oak Ridge High School Auditorium on Monday, April 15, 2019, to hear Superintendent Curtis Null (in background of photograph) deliver his final pro-$807-million-bond advocacy speech.
Oak Ridge North, April 17 – Conroe Independent School District (CISD) Superintendent Curtis Null included numerous false statements about tax increases about to strike CISD taxpayers if voters approve the $807 million bond in the May 4, 2019, election. It was Null’s final pro-$807-million-bond advocacy speech.
Null argued for voter approval of the $807 million tax hike before a crowd of fifty-seven (57) people in the Oak Ridge High School Auditorium, on Monday, April 15, 2019. More than one-third of the crowd wore CISD employee badges. Approximately one-sixth of the crowd were under the age of ten (10) and are not eligible to vote in the referendum.
Null gave his stock canned speech in favor of the $807 million bond. Nevertheless, the licensed massage therapist and holder of a doctorate in “professional leadership” spewed a number of falsehoods about CISD’s future and past tax increases. Since Null refuses ever to participate in a forum where another individual offers factual information in response to Null’s opinions and advocacy in favor of the $807 million bond, the audience members only heard the pro-bond side of the issues.
Null and CISD have played a terrible game of misrepresenting fiscal “success” based upon the school district’s tax rate only. Tax rate, under Texas tax law, is only one aspect of total taxation. With CISD, judging the success of the school district’s financial management based only upon tax rate is particularly perilous.
What Null told the tiny group of people at Oak Ridge High School
Null made two perniciously false statements during his pro-bond presentation on Monday evening.
First, Null has continuously misrepresented the true tax increase connected with CISD’s $807 million bond package. Null has repeatedly said the tax increase will be a 3 cent increase in the tax rate, but he has failed to disclose publicly that CISD also plans to push increases in property tax appraisals by the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD) Board of Directors, which CISD largely controls. The tax increases from CISD’s $807 million bond will be immense in comparison to a mere 3 cent rate increase. CISD, is, by far, the largest taxing entity in Montgomery County, has the largest number of votes in the election of the MCAD Board of Directors, which sets reappraisal policies.
By only disclosing the tax rate increase, but not the property tax appraisal increase, CISD and Null have misrepresented the vast magnitude of CISD’s $807 million tax hike.
Second, Null has repeatedly bragged that, in past bond elections, CISD projected tax rate increases but only implemented tax rate increases substantially lower than projected. In other words, Null has tried to sell the concept that CISD, by somehow acting frugally, has only raised tax rates a small amount of the total projections.
Both of Null’s and CISD’s statements are deliberately false and misleading. In order to understand how they’re misleading, it’s important to know how one calculates the total amount of taxes a person pays on his or her property.
How much are property taxes
What CISD’s taxpayers should consider, however, is the impact on taxes from the $807 million bond’s passage. CISD seeks to obfuscate the tax hike discussion with its claim that the tax rate will only increase by 3 cents in the school district’s financial projections shown at the top of this article. The tax rate, however, is only a part of the equation, which determines the amount of taxes an individual property tax payer actually pays.
The full equation to determine School Taxes Payable follows:
(Tax Rate) x (Property Tax Appraisal) = School Taxes Payable.
CISD has been quiet, yet clear, what its projections are for school taxes during the next ten years. 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 which sets property tax re-appraisal policy.
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 as that average home value in CISD, $268,518:
(Tax Rate = $1.28 per $100 valuation) x (Average Home Tax Value in CISD = $268,518) = $3,437.03 school taxes payable.
By only discussing the tax RATE, Null and CISD have failed to disclose the full tax increase the $807 million bond will bring to CISD taxpayers
CISD has quietly disclosed the true tax increase from the bond, which such tax increase will impact both the Tax Rate and Property Tax Appraisal Values. The table below – from CISD – shows that the tax rate will grow by 3 cents during the next few years, but CISD will push Property Tax Valuation Assessments to grow rapidly as well. The rate is the yellow column in the table below. The Assessed Valuation Growth is the white column just to the left of the yellow Tax Rate column.
According to CISD, taking the school district’s financial projections directly from its bond advocacy website, here’s how the average home in CISD will see its taxes during the next ten (10) years:
CISD will spend at least $807 million, $245 million of which will go to the lawyers, engineers, and architects who are financing the pro-bond political campaign, while CISD will achieve no improvements in educational outcomes.
The minimum tax increase from the $807 million bond will be 61.%%.
While Null’s and CISD’s 3-cent tax rate increase contribute to CISD’s increased taxation, it’s only a smart part of the increase, as CISD pushes Assessed Valuations aggressively through its control of the MCAD Board of Directors.
Null’s presentation of lower tax rate increases from previous bonds is nothing short of lying
In his canned pro-bond advocacy presentation at Oak Ridge High School on Monday evening, Null told the listeners that for CISD’s 2004 bond the district had projected a 9.75 cent Tax Rate increase but only raised the Tax Rate by 2.7 cents, for 2008’s bond the district had projected a 10 cent Tax Rate increase but only raised the Tax Rate by 5.5 cents, while for 2015’s bond the district had projected a 1 cent Tax Rate increase which “was never realized.”
Once again, Null’s and CISD’s taxation gamesmanship has come to the fore.
CISD and its Superintendent never said that the amount which each bond cost the taxpayers was even one penny less than CISD had projected. They borrowed and spent every dollar, nickel, and penny which the voters approved.
The lower Tax Rate had nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of frugality by CISD.
What caused the lower Tax Rate than CISD had projected? CISD succeeded in procuring higher Assessed Valuation increases after each bond than the school district had projected, so the Tax Rate increases were not necessary, according to confidential sources in each of CISD’s Finance Office and in MCAD who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
CISD raised taxes after each of the 2004, 2008, and 2015 bonds just as much as the school district had projected, but the form of those tax increases was more in the form of higher Assessed Valuations, i.e., property tax appraisal increases, than in Tax Rate increases.