Image: Spencer Tracy delivered the closing argument, as Henry Drummond, in the classic movie “Inherit the Wind.” In the movie, and in the real life Scopes trial, Tracy (and, in real life, Clarence Darrow) argued for the “right to think.” Conroe Independent School District, in its $677.3 Million bond campaign has fought to destroy the “right to think.” Rather, the school district wants to think for all of us.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, May 3 – Tuesdays are a wonderful day for many people in our community. So many wonderful things happen on Tuesdays.
Tuesday, November 5, 2019, is a day, which demands your attention for about 15 minutes, because it threatens all of your days in the future. Conroe Independent School District (CISD) scheduled a voter referendum on November 5 on a $677.3 million bond and tax increase, in order to reduce the likelihood that you would vote, so that CISD could count on its base of bond-supporters to carry the election.
It’s the largest bond in CISD history. It’s the largest bond in Montgomery County history. CISD’s financial projections reveal it will result in a 63.35% increase in your school tax bill during the coming nine (9) years.
CISD already implements the largest tax rate increase in the history of Montgomery County, 18.9%, in order to pay for the bond which the voters haven’t even yet passed, and CISD will raise your taxes more than any tax increase you’ve ever experienced, at the hands of the federal, state, or local governments.
The tax increase comes from two different increases resulting in your higher tax bill: first, CISD will push property tax appraisals substantially higher through CISD’s control of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, which set property tax re-appraisal policy; second, CISD has already implemented a 4 cent tax rate increase. Your tax bill is (Property Tax Appraisal x Tax Rate) = Taxes Assessed. Since both the Property Tax Appraisal and the Tax Rate will increase, so will your Taxes Assessed increase dramatically.
By voting down the CISD bond, taxpayers will have the opportunity to reverse the 4 cent tax rate increase CISD passed on August 20, 2019, in anticipation of passage of the bond package.
Two Fundamental Arguments Why Voters Should Reject the CISD Bond on November 5
Voters should vote “NO” and rejected both Proposition in the CISD’s November 5 $677.3 Million Bond package for two reasons, one “procedural” and one “substantive.”
First, and foremost, CISD’s expenditure of more than $500,000 of tax dollars earmarked for education on a political advocacy campaign in favor of the bond, using school campuses, parent emergency text message telephone numbers, and other educational resources is nothing other than a giant billboard which reads:
DON’T THINK. GOVERNMENT THINKS FOR YOU.
Second, CISD’s bond package contains hundreds of millions of dollars of junk and the largest tax increase in the history of CISD as well as all of Montgomery County.
Why voters should vote “NO” as to CISD’s $677.3 Million Bond package: don’t let government think for you!
During the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1924, Clarence Darrow, the great trial lawyer representing the defendant, argued that John T. Scopes symbolized the right to think. Specifically, Darrow argued that government should never think for us, because thinking is the province of the free individual in American society.
In this bond referendum, however, CISD has decided that it should think for us. The school district, a government entity which tax dollars fund has sent a clear message to voters and citizens:
DON’T THINK. GOVERNMENT THINKS FOR YOU.
It’s truly ironic that a government entity, CISD, which should symbolize teaching children how to think for themselves, is instead making a strong stand in favor of government thinking for all of us and spending our tax dollars to ensure that it replaces our thoughts with government’s own thoughts instead.
Renowned conservative political activist Amy Hedtke has said, “There is nothing responsible in taking people’s money by force.” Nevertheless, that is precisely what CISD is doing to win passage of the $677.3 Million bond package set for voter referendum on November 5, 2019.
Only the voters can stop CISD’s terrible practice of recent vintage of using education tax dollars for political advocacy instead.
CISD is spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to advocate for the passage of the bond. All of those funds are coming from maintenance and operations funds earmarked for public education, not political advocacy. CISD does not follow the Texas Election Code, so all of its political advertising doesn’t have the required political disclaimers and does not have the required language on the signs warning that citizens may not place them in public rights-of-way.
On Friday, October 18, 2019, during Halftime at the Woodlands High School football game, CISD kicked off the festivities with a 3 minute long video from The Woodlands High School principal regarding the November 5th bond election. The video clearly advocated for the bond, because only facts supportive of passage of the bond were included in the political advertisement.
CISD has basically turned its public schools away from education and into becoming a political machine:
- CISD turned its “welcome’s back to school” event at the Woodlands Church into a huge audio-visual presentation to try to show the need for the new bond proposal. The administrators turned the entire event into a political rally rather than sober meeting to begin the school’s academic year.
- Parents are now receiving regular e-blasts to advocate for the bond from CISD.
- The school district is placing pro-bond flyers in the boxes of students where they’re supposed to receive homework assignments.
- During faculty and staff development meetings, CISD has invited representatives of the Texas State Teachers Association, the teacher’s union, to provide PowerPoint presentations urging teachers and staff to vote “for” the bond package.
- At least three mailers to voters’ homes to advocate for the bond (likely cost in the range of $250,000);
- Newspaper stickers, advertisements, and stickers (likely cost in the range of $100,000);
- Thousands of political signs (without legally-required disclaimers) (Cost $50,000);
- Marquee advertisements at each school campus to support the bond (likely cost in manpower in the range of $5,000);
- Deployment of teachers to distribute flyers advocating for the bond in children’s weekly work packages and homework assignment folders (likely cost in the range of $10,000);
- Deployment of administrators and teachers to argue for the bond and to criticize individuals who oppose the bond (likely cost unknown);
- Deployment of administrators and teachers to urge for passage of the bond during parent open houses (likely cost unknown);
- Deployment of ROTC instructors to argue for the bond’s passage (likely cost unknown).Almost immediately after approval of the bond package, CISD began a political campaign, using public funds in the form of maintenance and operations tax dollars collected from private individuals and businesses. Like a carefully trained trial lawyer, CISD’s campaign presents partial facts, only those facts which support approval of the bond, while CISD has not presented all of the facts, especially those which reveal how unwise and unnecessary the bond package is.
In other words, it’s likely that CISD will take at least $500,000 of public funds earmarked for the education of our community’s children and, instead, spend those funds on a political campaign to advocate for a bond referendum.
Despite Section 11.169 of the Texas Education Code and Section 255.003, which legally prohibit CISD from spending public funds to advocate for the bond, CISD has done it anyway. There is no one who will stop them.
Why voters should vote “NO” as to CISD’s $677.3 Million Bond package: huge tax rate increase and tax hike to pay for a bunch of junk!
Despite continual misrepresentations to the contrary from CISD, CISD’s own super-secret internal documents reveal that passage of the school district’s $677.3 Million Bond package will bring the biggest tax increase in the history of CISD, a 63.35% tax increase!!! Voters will have an opportunity to defeat the terrible tax increase, with Early Voting beginning tomorrow, October 21, and continuing through November 1, while Election Day is November 5, 2019.
CISD has hidden its financial projections for its $677.3 Million bond package, since the school district suffered substantial criticism when it published the financial projections for the $807 Million bond package, which voters rejected on May 4, 2019. The Texas Patriots PAC repeatedly asked for the financial projections from CISD. After several weeks of delays, CISD finally produced the financial projections for the $677.3 Million Bond package showing immediately below.
CISD’s financial projections, also available to the public (in more readable form) on the Texas Patriots PAC’s website, reveal two points at first blush about the massive $677.3 Million “Zombie” Bond:
- First, CISD has already raised the TAX RATE 18.9% from 22 cents per $100 valuation to 26 cents per $100 valuation in order to pay debt service on the $677.3 Million Bond, which voters haven’t even approved yet!
- Second, the $677.3 Million Bond will result in a 63.35% tax increase, with the increase in the tax rate and the increase in property tax appraisals which CISD will push the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD) to adopt, in order to service the massive debt increase of more than 50% total, which the bond would represent. (It’s important to remember that CISD controls the elections of MCAD Board members who set the property tax reappraisals.)
A comparison of CISD’s financial projections for its failed $807 Million Bond package tells voters a lot about the duplicity of the CISD Board of Trustees and the school district’s administration.
The $807 Million Bond financial projection are immediately below.
The critical comparison of the two sets of financial projects appear in the following table, which The Golden Hammer’s statistical team prepared.
THE 16.45% GREED CONUNDRUM CHART
Here’s what The 16.45% Greed Conundrum Chart reveals:
- CISD’s Tax Rate Increase is higher under the $677.3 Million Bond package during 2020 and 2021 than it would have been under the rejected $807 Million Bond package.
- CISD’s $677.3 Million Bond package should have reduced the debt service by 19.15% ($807 million divided by $677.3 million = 1.195.) Instead, from 2022 to 2028, CISD’s $677.3 Million Bond has debt service which is only 2.7% than the failed $807 million bond, or a differential of 16.45%. The Greed Conundrum Chart reveals that CISD’s enormous greed is so completely out-of-control that the school district intends to raise taxes to collect only 2.7% less under the $677.3 Million than what the greedy administrators intended to collect under the failed $807 Million bond.
- If voters approve the $677.3 Million bond, they will yolk themselves with the largest tax increase in history, 63.35%!
CISD’s $677.3 Million Bond package still contains a bunch of crazy junk. It’s the “zombie” bond, because it contains all of the craziness from the $807 Million bond package voters rejected on May 4, 2019.
CISD has acknowledged that the bond will do absolutely nothing to increase educational outcomes. CISD has admitted in writing that they have no metrics whatsoever for what, if any benefit the bond package would have for educational outcomes for children. The bond has nothing whatsoever to do with improving the educational outcomes of children in the school district.
Here’s what the bond contains:
- $425,000 for an air soft gun range;
- $204,000 for two wooden dance floors with 4,550 mirrors each;
- $23.8 Million for turf, the dangerous and expensive flooring for athletic fields;
- $206.135 Million for profits for lawyers, engineers, and contractors;
- $39.415 Million, the most expensive elementary school in the history of CISD, to be constructed in a neighborhood where there are no homes, but a Las Vegas Casino magnate has cut a sweetheart deal with CISD so that the school district will promote the sale of homes in his development;
- at least $43 Million on maintenance items
- $405,000.00 for curtains for elementary school stages
- $19.035 million of “contingency,”;
- $10 million of unrestricted “land purchases”;
- $20 million of “technology” which will lose its useful life long before the end of a 25-year bond amortization;
- $144,247,000 for the extremely unpopular proposal radically to alter the campus and appearance of historic Conroe High School;
- $30,000,000 for “safety and security ” items of which CISD has admitted it has no idea for what the money will be.
Those crazy expenditures total $515,666,000!
The massive expenditure of $144,247,000 for renovation of Conroe High School will add no seats whatsoever to the capacity of CISD schools. CISD could easily have built a brand new additional high school for that amount of money. CISD, however, doesn’t want to alter the proposal, because CISD has made a commitment to the architectural firm, PBK Architects, that CISD will proceed with the pointless Conroe High School refurbishment.
CISD goes Las Vegas!
Las Vegas casino boss Dominic Frank Polizzotto has found a wonderful benefactor: the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) and its beleaguered taxpayers. CISD has agreed to build a $39,415,000 elementary school in Polizzotto’s subdivision, Artavia, on State Highway 242, even though the gambling magnate’s speculative venture doesn’t have one resident there and only has two homes the construction of which is partially complete.
CISD added the Artavia subdivision school as an additional component in its $676 million bond package which the school district had not included in its failed $807 million bond package which voters soundly rejected.
During a May 8, 2019, Monthly Luncheon speaker panel of CREAM, the Commercial Real Estate Association of Montgomery County, Polizzotto’s development manager Travis Stone, who works for the Polizzotto family’s holding company, Airia Development Company, told the lunch guests, “Airia is a family-owned company which does not borrow money for our real estate projects. We use cash for all of our developments, including Artavia.”
Airia Development Company incorporated on December 22, 2016, and lists its headquarters address as 3605 South Town Center Drive, Suite A, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The marketing materials of Polizzotto’s Artavia subdivision greatly emphasize Conroe ISD’s schools as the major amenity for the subdivision and the site plan for the subdivision already shows CISD’s “PROPOSED CISD SCHOOL SITE.” On the site plan below, the large gray diagonal square at the south tip of the Artavia subdivision is the school site.
Even though CISD intends to put taxpayers on the hook for $39.4 million of bonds for the elementary school in the Artavia subdivision with the November 5, 2019, bond referendum package, there are literally no residents of Artavia. Most of the subdivision roads are rough dirt which would easily puncture one’s tires.
At present, there are only two homes under construction, which appear as though they will be model homes. The main selling amenity Polizzotto’s subdivision offers is the CISD school included within the $676 million bond package.
Clearly, Polizzotto is using the $39.4 million elementary school in the 2019 bond package as a marketing tool for his subdivision. Nevertheless, CISD claims that it has not yet even committed to the construction project. CISD spokesperson Sarah Blakelock told The Golden Hammer, “The exact location of Elementary #48 – Caney Creek Feeder – Flex 23 has yet to be determined. Artavia is a possible location. Other sites are still under consideration.”
There’s something seriously wrong there. Polizzotto is advertising in all of Artavia’s marketing materials to potential homebuyers that there is a proposed CISD site at the south end of his subdivision. CISD has included a $39,415,000.00 cost for a school, which seems quite precise, and, by the way, is almost $4 million more expensive than one of the other elementary schools listed in the bond package. If CISD hasn’t committed to construct the school at Artavia, then the casino boss seems to be stepping beyond the truth in his advertising.
Who is CISD’s new-found development partner?
Dominic Frank Polizzotto holds a law degree form Valparaiso Univerity School of Law and practices law in Indiana and Nevada. He is a Senior Vice President and General Counsel for The Star Majestic Casino LLC, Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corporation, Blizzard Asset Management (which owns several casinos in the southeastern United States), and Majestic Star Casino LLC.
Horseshoe Gamily Holding Corporation, which is listed for public trading on the NASDAQ, has explained to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in its 10-K filings that Polizzotto is “in charge of investigating new opportunities for expansion of the Company’s operations,” which are casinos.
CISD’s plans; racketeering?
A source within CISD who has requested anonymity told this newspaper yesterday, “That subdivision is expected to have over 5000 homes so it would make sense that we would put an elementary school in that area. However, if the area does not grow as predicted, then we would not build the school.”
But that’s fundamentally the problem. CISD is putting its taxpayers on the hook for $39.4 million of bond financing in the package for which the school district is seeking approval on November 5, 2019. Why should taxpayers commit to $39.4 million of bond financing just to promote the real estate plans of a Las Vegas casino family needing CISD’s assistance to market lots and houses in a speculative venture?
It seems as though CISD is gambling with the citizens’ dollars to help a wealthy casino family which has such vast quantities of cash that they don’t even need any bank financing for their real estate investment.
On October 9, a letter writer in the Wall Street Journal discussed the idea of bringing criminal cases under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against public school administrators for turning out a huge percentage of high school graduates who were functionally illiterate. According to the Texas Education Agency, eleven percent (11%) of CISD’s graduates are illiterate. Turning out 11% illiterate high school graduates while making real estate deals with Las Vegas casino families suggests that, perhaps, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas should train his eyes on CISD.