Which scenario is worse? Conroe Independent School District intentionally PROFITED from horrific Harvey storm, flooding

Which scenario is worse? Conroe Independent School District intentionally PROFITED from horrific Harvey storm, flooding

Image: A car submerged during the Harvey storm which struck Montgomery County from August 25 to September 2, 2017.

Conroe, August 5 – Which is worse? Both are factual.

Scenario #1. Hurricane Ike struck the southern United States. People lost lives and billions of dollars worth of homes, livelihoods, and possessions. A husband and wife from Splendora embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars of funds which were to have helped many of those people. When they were rightly sent to federal prison, they left their two children behind to live in a school bus by themselves and starve.

Scenario #2. Hurricane Harvey struck Montgomery County and other areas of Texas. Two Montgomery County residents lost their lives in the flooding. 2300 homes suffered damage in the geographic area of the Conroe Independent School District (CISD). At first, Conroe ISD would not give the flood victims any tax break. Skeeter Hubert, Datren Williams, and Scott Kidd, who are CISD Board members, initially took the position that flood victims should get relief from the State of Texas, not them. The CISD Superintendent agreed with them. Eventually, CISD reversed their position and permitted reappraisals which would “cost” CISD $350,000 in tax collections. CISD projected losing $1.4 million in tax collections as a result of the Harvey storm in 2018-19. But CISD used a legal loophole, based upon the Harvey disaster, to raise taxes by $9.3 million above the legal tax rate, to take advantage of the fact that CISD residents suffered a horrific natural disaster!

The CISD took advantage of the horrific devastation from the Harvey storm, which struck Montgomery County between August 25 and September 2, 2017, to PROFIT!

Here’s the sequence of events.

Tropical Storm Harvey struck Montgomery County between August 27 and September 2, 2017. The San Jacinto River Authority unleashed Lake Conroe Dam waters without warning early on the morning of Monday, August 28. Homes along the San Jacinto River began flooding almost immediately. East Montgomery County suffered the greatest damage.

On Tuesday, September 19, CISD Board President Melanie Pryor Bush made a motion in accordance with the school district’s agenda to provide reappraisals of flood-damaged properties from Harvey in order to provide tax relief to the flood victims. In a series of private emails and text messages, Board members Datren Williams, Skeeter Hubert, and Scott Kidd planned to do everything they could to prevent CISD from providing any property tax relief to Harvey victims, because Williams, Hubert, Kidd, and the CISD administration was far more focused on money than on providing relief to victims. Williams, Kidd, and Hubert managed to kill Bush’s proposal to provide the tax relief at that meeting.

At an October 3 workshop, CISD Chief Financial Officer Darren Rice reported to the Board that CISD projected it would lose “$2.8 million in tax revenue…and $600,000 in debt service tax revenue,” totaling $3.4 million as a result of the Harvey storm. Clearly, Rice, the administration, and the Board were still focused on how Harvey might impact tax collections to support the bloated expenditures of CISD.

At a Board meeting on Tuesday, October 17, Rice revised his estimates downward. By that time, it was clear that more than 2300 homes within CISD had suffered damage from Harvey and that those families were reeling from the destruction of their homes, their families, and their belongings. Rice and the Board remained worried about tax collections.

Rice told the Board on October 17, 2017, that Harvey would “cost CISD” $1.07 million in general fund tax “revenue” and $245,000 in debt service, to total around $1.32 million. At that Board meeting, however, Bush insisted that the Board vote on whether or not to grant reappraisals to Harvey-damaged homes. The proposal passed. Hubert missed that Board meeting, so Williams and Kidd knew they couldn’t prevail in a vote to deny Harvey victims some relief.

Governor Greg Abbott included Montgomery County in the federal and State disaster declaration from Harvey. As a result, CISD explains that it took the following action in its own words from its secretive “Board Book” for the Fiscal Year from 2018 to 2019:

“Debt Service fund revenue is budgeted to decrease $2,239,845 or 2.7% under 2017-2018 projected revenue. The 2018-19 Debt Service tax rate was reduced to $0.22 compared to $0.24 in 2017-18. As a result of the impact of Hurricane Harvey, Governor Abbott added Montgomery County to his state disaster declaration list on August 26, 2017, and he requested federal and state disaster assistance at that time. Because the District had increased expenditures in response to Hurricane Harvey, the District was then be eligible to raise its maintenance and operations taxes above the rollback rate without a ratifying election. This one time exception is in accordance with Section 26.08(a) of the Texas Tax Code. The District took advantage of this one time exception and raised the M&O tax rate by two cents.” – – Conroe Independent School District.

As a result of the 2 cent tax increase above the maximum tax rate CISD could charge for maintenance and operations, CISD brought in an additional $9,348,285.15, according to CISD! In other words, CISD projected it would lose $1.31 million in tax collections but took advantage of the Harvey storm – and Harvey’s victims – by raising taxes $9.3 million!!!

As a result of the 2 cent tax increase above the maximum tax rate CISD could charge for maintenance and operations, CISD brought in an additional $9,348,285.15, according to CISD! In other words, CISD projected it would lose $1.31 million in tax collections but took advantage of the Harvey storm – and Harvey’s victims – by raising taxes $9.3 million!!! 

If you’re worried about CISD’s tax base, here is CISD’s depiction from that same Board book of the trend in its tax base upon which the school district confiscates tax dollars.

Source: CISD.

In other words, CISD knew that its tax base was continuing to grow through the Harvey storm but the district decided to raise taxes regardless. That same year, of course, the CISD administration gave themselves a hefty 3% salary increase across-the-board, which was substantially higher than cost-of-living increases during the same period.

CISD’s expenditure budget then actually increased during the same year.

CISD must have observed the school bus felons and liked what they observed: you can profit off of people who suffer from natural disasters. They decided to kick the citizens of CISD when they were down.

Source: CISD.

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