Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer
After four solid months of research and listening to Conroe Independent School District (CISD) Superintendent Curtis Null and members of the Board of Trustees present their advocacy for the $807 million bond package several times, The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper has come to the firm conclusion that CISD voters should vote “NO” to the $807 million bond package set for referendum on May 4 and for early voting April 22 through April 30.
The school district has made clear in writing that this bond package will not improve educational outcomes at all and that spending $807 million has nothing whatsoever to do with that. The metrics for school performance in Texas and nationwide are reading comprehension in the fourth grade, mathematics proficiency in the eighth grade, graduation rates, and postsecondary education participation rates. CISD has no quantitative data with respect to those metrics or how this bond package would improve them.
CISD’s process, demographic study, and cost estimates suffer from deep and fundamental flaws which necessitate voter rejection of this $807 million bond package and tax hike. The bond would result in a 64.7% increase in CISD school property taxes during the next ten (10) years, according to the projections of CISD.
CISD wants the money. The administration got the Board to appoint a 27-person Facilities Planning Committee which rubber-stamped the proposed bond package and agreed to serve as the political arm of CISD for the purpose of pushing the package past the voters. There was no deliberation or careful thought. It was a small group of bureaucrats within CISD who pushed the Board, the Committee, and the Board again to put this bond package on the May 4 ballot.
CISD’s own demographic consultants, Population and Survey Analysts of College Station, prepared a study, which reveals that the school district doesn’t need to begin construction of new schools before 2028. CISD fumbled terribly. First, the school district told the public it wouldn’t begin to construct new schools until current schools reached 120% of enrollment. The demographic study projects that won’t happen until after 2028! Second, the school district changed its story and claimed it wouldn’t begin to construct new schools until current schools reached 110% of enrollment and that it made a change in policy for this bond. Nothing in the Board’s minutes, meeting summaries, or contract with the demographic consulting firm indicates any such change in policy. Even worse, however: the demographic study shows that CISD’s schools won’t reach 110% capacity until around 2026 to 2027, so there’s no necessary bond for at least another nine (9) years!
The cost estimates for the entire $807 million bond package are a joke. The magic number, $21,562.50, was only the beginning of this newspaper’s investigative adventure which concluded with the discovery that CISD failed to obtain any cost estimates, quotes, bids, proposals, takeoffs, invoices, or pricing for this bond package at all. The entirety of the $807 million is pulled from the frische luft (the “fresh air” in German). The list of cost estimates would have created a world of wonderment for Carl Friedrich Gauss (“Requiescat in pace, Herr Gauss”). While the list provides much entertainment, ultimately one must conclude that CISD has ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS WHATSOEVER FOR ANY OF THE COST ESTIMATES IN THE ENTIRE BOND PACKAGE!!!!!!!
Did CISD’s administration use a Ouija Board to come up with the cost estimates for the entire bond package?
Among the $807 million in spending CISD intends within this bond package are the following expenditures among others:
- $131 million or more on maintenance items;
- $23 million or more on turf for some sports fields;
- $245,608,695.65 in payments to architects, engineers, and lawyers.
- $1,482,998.82 to refurbish the Jett Center which CISD has said it intends to vacate;
- $405,000.00 for curtains for elementary school stages;
- $425,000.00 for an air soft range;
- $204,000.00 for two (2) dance floors each with 4,500 mirrors;
- $39 million of “contingency,”;
- $20 million of unrestricted “land purchase”;
- $36 million of “technology” which will lose its useful life long before the end of the 25-year bond’s amortization;
- $146,068,000.00 for the extremely unpopular proposal radically to alter the campus and appearance of historic Conroe High School;
- A wasteful Teaching Training Facility, which would cost taxpayers more than $17 million, when facilities are already more than adequate for the same purpose across the District;
- Questionable agricultural facilities and vocational facilities which are more appropriate for a junior college or technical school, costing at least $3,618,000.00; and
- $24,576,592.69 of expenditures supposedly for “safety” which CISD’s Superintendent admitted on February 18 is a sum of money for which they don’t yet know the spending items.
Just those items alone total more than $688,408,286!
CISD has admitted:
- In writing, that the school district does not know whether there will be any improvement in educational outcomes for students attending district schools;
- In a videotaped interview that the school district won’t reach the capacity necessary for new construction of schools at least for ten years, according to the CISD’s demographic study it purchased supposedly to support the $807 million bond package;
- CISD has failed to obtain any cost estimates, quotes, bids, proposals, takeoffs, or job costs for any of the items in the bond package;
- CISD chose the entire Facilities Planning Committee, which recommended the bond package CISD’s administrators asked them to recommend;
- Taxes for CISD will increase by 64.7% with passage of this bond, because there will be both a tax rate increase as well as property tax appraisal increases to support this bond financially.
At this point, the following institutions have endorsed a “NO” vote with respect to the CISD bond package:
- Montgomery County Republican Party;
- Montgomery County Tea Party;
- Texas Patriots PAC.
Part of the interesting process CISD has concocted for this bond package is that the governmental entity has convinced several organizations not to permit any debate about the bond package. Rather, those organizations only permit CISD’s Superintendent, Curtis Null, to speak in favor of the bond package, but they do not allow any factual presentation about the $807 million bond package or any discussion challenging Null or CISD. Those organizations include Conroe Rotary Club, Woodlands Chamber of Commerce, Greater Conroe Chamber of Commerce, Greater Houston Builders Association, Woodlands Rotary Club, among others.
CISD Trustee Dale Inman tried to reduce the bond package to a package of “needs” totaling $304 million and removing the unnecessary expenditures of $503 million. The Board of Trustees would not permit any discussion on Inman’s concerns and approved the unnecessary expeditures of over a half a billion dollars.
Our children in school right now will be old enough soon enough that they’ll pay property taxes on this bond package when they’re struggling as young adults to make their own lives. It would be shameful for us to foist this bond debt on our children. Instead, we should give our children hope by defeating this $807 million bond package on May 4 and bringing fiscal sanity to the taxing entity which will dominate our children’s property tax bills as well as our own.