Conroe, January 21 – If voters in the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) vote on May 4, 2019, to approve the $807 million bond package the CISD administration is proposing, CISD will become one of the most debt laden school districts in Texas. The District has failed to manage its expenditures and has included almost $100 million in the proposed package without any explanation or detail. Please see “Montgomery County Government, Conroe ISD Spending Out Of Control, Even Compared To Federal Government,” The Golden Hammer, January 20, 2019.
If the bond passes, voters will award themselves a 3 cent per $100 valuation tax increase, according to the District’s projections. They’ll have a school district with one of the highest debt outstanding per student values in Texas. In fact, the finances of the Conroe ISD will actually make the failing Houston Independent School District (HISD) look good.
Houston’s debt compared to other school districts
The HISD has 214,175 enrolled students. It’s the largest school district in Texas, by far.
HISD has $3,155,520,000 of debt. That’s $3.155 billion dollars. By dividing the number of enrolled students into the debt number, one finds that Houston ISD has $14,733 of debt per enrolled student.
Citizen-activist Amy Hedtke compiled the numbers in the chart at the top of this article from Texas Education Agency data. Clearly, Frisco ISD, a fast-growing district north of Dallas, has the highest amount of debt per student at $33,698 of debt per enrolled student.
In comparison, Conroe ISD had $19,017 of debt per enrolled student as of August 31, 2017. That number is actually a bit lower today, because there are 63,290 students enrolled, meaning that CISD’s debt per enrolled student currently stands at $17,958.45.
What will CISD’s bond package do?
Last Tuesday night, the Conroe ISD’s Board of Trustees voted, 6 to 0 with 1 abstention, to approve an $807 million bond package. The package, if approved, will result in a 3 cent per $100 valuation increase in property taxes. That means that for the median home value in Montgomery County of $272,400, the average taxpayer would pay $81.72 more per year in taxes, which is actually quite high.
In comparison, New Caney ISD passed a $200 million bond package in 2018, which its Board of Trustees ensured would result in no tax increase. That’s the face of better fiscal management.
The question of “What will CISD’s bond package do?” is really two different questions, both of which have very disturbing answers at this point.
First, clearly, CISD’s proposed bond package will have a deleterious impact financially. By increasing the total bond debt of CISD to $1,934,590,000, which is just short of $2 billion (!), the school district will increase outstanding debt per enrolled student to a massive $30,709 per enrolled student.
Additionally, CISD’s proposed bond package will cost taxpayers a lot of money at a time when taxes are already far too high to the point that they’re forcing families to have both parents working outside of the home. Children receive less attention from their parents at a young age, because both parents must work. During the first five critical years of cognitive development, children are left behind, because of the massive amount of taxes families must pay out of their disposable income. It’s a never-ending death cycle, because children then become more dependent upon the government to provide their education, but they’re far less equipped to do well in school, because they missed out on those five critical first years of cognitive development.
Second, and more disturbing, it’s unclear what, if anything, the CISD’s proposed bond package will do to increase the quality of education for children within the Conroe ISD. The “2019 Bond Package” appears to be a construction contractor’s dream come true.
The problem with the bond package is that it will add approximately $90 million of debt service per year as an expenditure. Look at the bond package detail, however. Less than $40 million of it constitutes improvements in the education product of the district. Rather, it appears as though Superintendent Curtis Null and the CISD Board are assembling a real estate empire.
The bottom line question, which the Conroe ISD Board of Trustees has abjectly failed to answer so far, is “How will the almost billion dollar debt package specifically improve the education of our children?”
If the CISD fails to give a lot of convincing detail to answer that critical question, then no one should support the bond package in the May 4 election (other than construction contractors.)