A "yes" vote in Katy

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  1. ACK!!!!! I didn’t think they’d air it!
    Since I showed up to vote with no make-up and a sweatshirt, I’m having some indigestion here. I think I’m glad I missed this… (That’ll teach me, eh?)
    Also — since I didn’t see it, I don’t know what was edited out, but I do know that they caught me flat-footed on one of their questions.  They asked whether I had voted the first time around (in May), and I said I was out of the country.
    I was embarrassed to say that I had not voted the last time.  I’m still embarrassed about that… so much so that I may have to do a post about it.

  2. Don’t feel too badly. Some years ago, I tried to vote in a school bond election, but the thing was so horridly publicized it turned out I showed up at the wrong precinct – and the right one was way the heck out of my way, and I had places to be and things to do.
    That bond election failed.
    I think the school board (sort of) got the message, because the next one was much better publicized.

  3. Voting for a bond and not understanding who is behind it and how much it cost is dangerous. So far those who could profit from this KISD bond have contributed close to $100,000 dollars to a Pro bond PAC. Some of these people will be on an oversight committee to make sure where the bond money is spent. These people include Contractor, Architects, Lawyers, and Developers. What do you think their motives are? This bond includes two $600,0000 concession stands. How does that educate our kids. Last bond had HD televisions and inflated prices for schools. One trustee has publicly come out against this bond. Make them build schools not “Hotdog stand” Vote NO.

  4. Polimom,
    Mr. A.D. Muller seems indefatigeable in his efforts to kill the KISD bond issue. I wonder why? (Are his kids in KISD?)
    He seems to find it sinister that businesses support the issue (or at least, think it helps him to kill the bond issue by portraying it as such). I don’t see what the big deal is. Apparently it’s ok for those who oppose it to fund a PAC to amplify their voices but not for those who support it.
    As for “Contractor, Architects, Lawyers, and Developers” supporting it, well . . . . I guess they support it becasue they think it will help their businesses if Katy doesn’t let it’s school system deteriorate. In fact, as you briefly mention in your post, every homeowner in Katy has an interest in seeing KISD schools remain excellent–it helps support their property values! (Not a small thing in the middle of what looks like a nation-wide real estate slump.)
    Katy is well known in the Houston area for it’s great schools. A bond issue provides capital funds for new schools and major repairs/upgrades to existing ones. It does not increase the Katy school taxes if it passes, nor does it decrease them if it fails.
    Perhaps KISD is “fat” with excess administrators and wasteful in how it spends the operating budget. Perhaps not. However, it sounds like the capital budget is being supervised by those with the most to lose if it is misspent. From the linked article:

    “If developers aren’t on board to see that we have the best school system under the sun, how are they going to get people to buy homes?” Hodge asked. “They have got an investment in Katy and in real estate.”

    Indeed. Who should be on the Board, if not “Contractor, Architects, Lawyers, and Developers”?

  5. “He seems to find it sinister that businesses support the issue (or at least, think it helps him to kill the bond issue by portraying it as such). I don’t see what the big deal is. Apparently it’s ok for those who oppose it to fund a PAC to amplify their voices but not for those who support it. ”
    The difference between the KIDS PAC contributors and the CAPS PAC contributors is that many of the KIDS PAC contributors have the opportunity to get their money back from profits they may make if the bond passes as they may benefit from the placement of schools in their subdivisions or their companies may build the schools or their companies may sell the homes that wiil be built because there is a school close by. On the other hand the CAPS PAC is funded by individuals who donated their personal funds and who can see the ethical difference between supporting a bond initiative because one may profit from it and opposing it because one has nothing to gain by doing so except taking the high road with regard to the hard earned tax dollars of Katy citizens! Our school board is out of control with spending; they provide no oversight for the superintendent and his administration; maintenance of our buildings is the pits and that’s why they’re having to ask for so much money in that regard. The Board cannot be trusted to build what they say they will. The Board asked for money in bond issues to build Williams Elementary three times (1994, 1996, and 1999) before they finally built it in 2000! Each time the Board asked for money for that same school, they neglected to mention that the voters had already approved the money! How straightforward and honest is that? The Board could have used the TIRZ money to pay off Katy High School’s costs but instead chose to build a monument to a superintendent who has done absolutely nothing to deserve such an honor. In fact you can’t find anyone for twenty miles in any direction who disagrees with that statement. A man of honor would have declined to have his name on such a building for no good reason. The KIDS complain about all the kids in portables and grossly inflate the numbers when there was a simple solution many years ago: put the administrators in portable buildings and use bond money to build schools, not palaces for administrators. A ten year old school (Katy Junior High) shouldn’t need a new roof. A twelve year old school (Katy Elementary) shouldn’t need a new roof. A fourteen year old school (McDonald Junior High) shouldn’t need a new roof. Does anyone reading this get a new roof every ten years? How about every fourteen years? Everyone has forgotten the Xpediant fiasco, but you can bet with the passage of the bond, those people will be back on the payroll by Friday! Not only do people need to vote down the bond initiative, they need to be asking for Leonard Merrell’s resignation.
    Mary McGarr
    (unlike most of you–not hiding behind a phony name)

  6. Mary and A.D. — thanks so much for stopping by, particularly since your group has been so diligently working against the bond issue. It takes great courage to politely confront someone who has come out publicly against your position… and I’ve done so twice (prior post here).
    AD said:

    Voting for a bond and not understanding who is behind it and how much it cost is dangerous.

    Since I’m absolutely sure you’re not referring to me with that statement, I’m happy to agree with it. That’s why I voted yes.
    You are concerned that people who stand to make money from the bond not only support it, they have contributed money toward its passage. That strikes me as not only logical, but… well…normal. Are you saying that there are no development plans already submitted? That the demographics studies are fanciful figures created whole cloth?
    Furthermore — as a homeowner, I (and presumably you?) stand to gain from this, too, in a much smaller but related way: when I decide to sell my home, I fully expect KISD’s ongoing reputation to be a factor in my capital gain. That includes (but isn’t limited to) well-maintained schools that are not over-crowded, and high schools that offer the same sports opportunities to all students in the district (including swimming).
    Just curious, btw: how do 2400 sq ft. buildings with kitchens, full bathroom facilities, and storage (etc.) equate to hotdog stands? And I have to say that the inflated costs for schools has become a slightly overplayed meme… unless one chooses to equate costs for a school that will educate 700 students with a school set up for 1000. My math (and I admit that it’s not my strong suit) tells me that there’s a 30% difference there, without even touching the question of materials quality.
    Mary — I gather (from town chatter and your various writing) that you are… um… less than impressed with Merrell. I believe it’s possible that you are acting from purity and altruism, but to be completely candid, it comes across as a personal grudge. It’s had a rather negative impact on my opinion about your organization’s credibility, I’m sorry to say, and that, too, fed into my “yes” vote.
    Do I think the naming of Merrell Center reflects a bit of egocentricity? Perhaps, but it’s hardly a unique occurrence, and it doesn’t raise my hackles enough to call for his resignation. Furthermore, I’d never try to remove him at the expense of funding for our school district. There are other, better avenues…

  7. Polimom, you did not answer my question. Do we need a $600,000 dollar hot dog stand. If we do, who will pays for it. What is KISD’s debt per student, $38.000 per student. Why are vendors and and Bond committee raising money before we know their plan My son went through KISD, Mary was a trustee. Tom Law has kids in KISD and said no to this bond. We do not hide from the truth. We use our real names.

  8. A.D. — if I thought it was actually a “hot dog stand” under discussion, I’d be able to answer you. However, in my prior response, I asked: “how do 2400 sq ft. buildings with kitchens, full bathroom facilities, and storage (etc.) equate to hotdog stands?” (A clarifying question which I notice you did not answer.)
    I need to correct myself, btw: according to KISD’s info, the facilities are 2500 sq. ft. (link here)
    Your determined focus on misleading terminology makes this a loop. Kind of reminds me of “Have you stopped beating your wife?”.

  9. Ms. McGarr and Mr. Muller:
    Failing the bond would save the average taxpayer about 12 cents a day. Passing a bond that was $50 million dollars less than the current bond offering as suggested by your group would save the average taxpayer about 2 cents a day (it would be 10 cents per day). So this cannot be about money. What are your motives? The voters deserve to know.
    Maintenance of KISD buildings is very good and that’s why the maintenance department has managed to get 11 and 15 years out of ten-year roofs that were installed during Ms. McGarr’s tenure on the school board.
    This board and administration can be trusted to build what they say they will. Williams Elementary was on the 1994 bond which was put together under a different administration and a different construction department. The cost estimates were off, so only three of the four elementary schools planned were built with the 1994 bond authorization. Ms. McGarr was on the board at the time. While it is true that Williams was built in 2000 it was built with 1996 bond money, not 1999 bond money as Ms. McGarr has suggested.
    The TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) is the result of an agreement that the City of Katy made with KISD. School districts cannot set up a TIRZ, but cities can. The City of Katy approached KISD about the possibility of setting up a TIRZ. One of the stipulations made by the city was that the first project built with the money would be a multipurpose center so the notion that KISD was free to use the money to pay off Katy High School’s costs is a false. What is great about the TIRZ is that it allows KISD to keep money that otherwise would have been withheld from the district by state funding formulas and the district can use the money that is not used to pay down the Merrell Center for projects in Katy High School. The TIRZ is a great deal for the KISD community.
    KISD builds schools at or below the average cost of Houston-area schools. If the Watchdogs used proper inflation indexes and included desks, chairs, computers and books in their estimates, they would find that the costs were not as inflated as they claim.
    The “Xpediant fiasco” has been forgotten because it was no fiasco at all. In 2002 the district discovered that its technology department needed additional assistance to be effective. It was a situation that had to be corrected fast. Xpediant was hired and did a great job. Excellent technology help is not cheap.
    KISD’s debt per student is reasonable given that it has been the second-fastest growing district in the state in terms of absolute growth over the last five years. Rapid growth costs money to manage properly.
    Polimom is right on target in regards to the Merrell Center. This bond election has little to do with Dr. Merrell. It has everything to do with the future of the quality of education offered to students in the KISD community. The decision made by the voters on November 7 will affect us long after Dr. Merrell has left KISD.

  10. The Master,
    How can you say that the passage of this bond will not increase Katy school taxes? In the past month or so, the Katy ISD school board approved a $0.33 debt service tax rate. If the bond passes, the debt service tax rate could be as high as $0.40. This fact is stated on the facts sheet published by Katy ISD and has been placed in every school in Katy ISD and the administration building.
    Kevin Tatum

  11. Kevin,
    I believe you’re right; I have misstated the impact. While I do not claim to be an expert in school district bond issues, I have done some research and here is what I believe to be the story on the KISD Debt Service rate.
    — In 2005-2006 it was $0.37
    — In 2006-2007 it is $0.33 — but . . . the 2006-2007 rate required to completely service the debt is actually $0.37. The $0.33 rate is an artifact of KISD’s (perfectly legal) attempt to keep school taxes as low as possible by taking advantage of state funding options.
    From http://www.katybondinfo.org (click on the Property Taxes button on the left):

    “. . . In order to receive over $5 million in state matching funds in 2006/07 without increasing the total tax rate, the Board of Trustees is planning to move 4 cents from the I&S rate (debt service) to the M&O (maintenance & operations) rate giving an M&O rate of $1.485 and an I&S rate of $0.33 for 2006. By state law the district will be able to move about $4.25 million from the general fund in order to fully cover the debt servicing expenses for 2007.
    For 2007 HB1 provides for a 33.33% reduction of the 2005 M&O rate resulting in a rate of $1.087 per $100 of valuation. The Board of Trustees has the option of raising the M&O rate by 4 cents to $1.127 so that Katy ISD can benefit from over $5 million in state matching funds. The I&S rate will likely be $0.40 for 2007 if the bond passes. This represents an effective 3 cent increase of this rate from 2007. Note that the rate of 0.33 for 2006 is artificial because the debt servicing fund is being supplemented by monies from the general fund as allowed by state law so that Katy ISD can benefit from over $5 million in state matching funds.
    Passing this bond would likely result in a 3 cent (or less) increase in the debt service rate. On a home valued at $115,000 an increase of 3 cents would result in a tax bill that was $30 higher after subtracting the $15,000 homestead exemption. This is equivalent to about 8 cents per day.”

    This ‘accounting switcheroo’ is confirmed in the cover letter to the KISD 2006 – 2007 budget. From the KISD web site (link ): (Last paragraph at the bottom of page 1):

    “The Debt Service Fund is used to account for payment of principal and interest on the District’s long-term debt. The District’s Debt Service expenditure budget for 2006-07 is $67,207,000. As with the General Fund, the primary revenue sources are local property taxes and state funds. Local revenues of $46,926,630 are based on a Debt Service tax rate
    of $.33 and state funds of $14,475,473. Other Sources include $4,250,000 transferred in from the General Fund and $1,561,815 of interest earnings on bond proceeds.”

    So without the new bond, and without accounting shell games, the 2006 – 2007 rate to cover the Debt Service Fund would be $0.37.
    The rate is set each year by the Board of Trustees. While we do not know what the Board will do if the new bond passes, let’s assume that they will raise the Debt Service rate to $0.40. My understanding is that $0.40 is the maximum rate allowed by law. I also understand that if the Debt Service rate falls below $0.29, KISD would begin to lose state funding assistance for its debt, so the “local school tax minimizing window” for the Debt Service rate is narrow.
    Let’s assume the “worst case” where bond issue passes and the Board of Trustees raises the Debt Service rate to $.40 from the current (effective rate of) $0.37 and keeps it there for years to come. This “worst case” impact will be an additional $30 / $100,000 / year in assessed value on houses in KISD (not the $70 / $100,000 / year that is implied by the difference between $0.40 and the $0.33 published Debt Service rate for 2006 – 2007).
    This “worst case” would appear to be the maximum impact on KISD taxes if this (or any other bond issue) passes. Once the Debt Service rate hits $0.40 then the impact of additional bond issues on annual KISD taxes is zero, but until it does hit $0.40, it is incorrect to say there is no impact.
    My apologies.

  12. Kevin and the Master,
    The Master is right about the debt service tax rate. The effective rate for this year is really $0.37 since the Board will be moving $4.25 million from the general fund (as allowed by law) to compensate for moving 4 cents from the debt service rate to the M&O (general fund) rate. This smart accounting maneuver enabled the district to receive over $5 million in state matching funds for KISD that otherwise would have been spent somewhere else in the state.
    It is my understanding that the debt service rate can be raised to $0.50, but the district’s conservative analysis indicates that the rate could be kept at $0.40 with the passage of this bond and a future bond in 2009.
    So the bond, if passed, would result in an increase of 3 cents in the effective debt service rate which would cost the owner of a home appraised at $165,000 about 12 cents a day. In addition, as the Master points out our total school property tax rate will decrease by about 25% or more from the 2005 number due to the state’s buydown of the rate.
    The school property tax rates of seniors with an over 65 homestead exemption would not be affected by the passage of the bond.
    This is a great deal for all in the KISD community.

  13. Polimom outed herself. Does she believe a concession stand can cost $250.00 per sq ft.? Who does? Will this expenditure add classrooms? The big money PAC’s are running attack ads on the radios that are very negative. They use the word liar very liberally. What happen to your groups eloquence?

  14. AD — I assumed that since you’d engaged the debate here on a blog, you understood the internet. Your comment that I “outed myself” tells me otherwise. I’m still not sure what you were trying to accomplish by “SHOUTING” my name on my own site (really quite amusing, btw), but I get the impression that you think I’m part of either a group, or I’m involved in a plot that involves the Chronicle. Have I got that right?
    Meanwhile, back to the actual subject of the bond — you’ve done it again. You dropped partial information, and then tried to make people draw a conclusion. KISD is not proposing to simply put up a concession stand. The existing facilities and surrounding bleachers aren’t going to simply stand up and walk themselves away, nor are bleachers going to reconstruct themselves elsewhere. Furthermore, the ADA requirements are not the same, AD, as simply putting up a kitchen or bathroom stalls… and I suspect you know that.
    Why do you keep using bits and pieces, AD? Surely you recognize by now that folks are able to find the rest of the story. Aren’t you at all concerned about what this does to your group’s credibility?
    Also — while yesterday’s editorial in the Katy Times seems to have doubled the cost, I found this bit interesting:

    Last year, Katy High School made it to the state title game without playing a single home playoff game because its facilities were inadequate, costing the district tens of thousands of dollars in revenue.

    Since AC is still in elementary school and my world is still full of short people who lose their lunch money, I didn’t know this. Did you?

  15. My dear Polimom
    You should worry about your Pro-bond advocates credibility. We are not fed by ego or elitism. All we can do is bring openness to the system. We are parents, Grandparents, teachers, and taxpayers. We can’t run $100,000 dollar Ad campaign riddled with radio ads calling people liars. We don’t accept money form those who profit from an ill-advised bond that builds two $1.200,000 million dollar concession stand and bleachers. We have not formed PACs with lawyers and vendors who will profit from the bond.. The Texas Ethics Commission complaint should enlighten the public to the credibility of the real motives of the big money guys. They are worried that the trough is running low on feed. All we can do is not feed them at our community’s expense. Apparently, the citizens have not fed their campaign either.

  16. AD —
    I have no idea what is running on the radio (or even the television, for the most part). This election season is so sour — brutal, even — that I don’t even want to hear or see much of anything by this point… and that’s completely aside from our local bond issue. But I would have said that it’s been pretty acrimonious for quite a while, wouldn’t you?
    We all have a horse in this race; you can’t live in Katy and not be aware of the impact our schools have, and will continue to have. But more importantly, we’re all neighbors — whether we live north or south of the freeway, east or west of the Grand Parkway. And on November 8, we will all still be here.
    Hopefully, we’ll still be a community that can respect itself, and one another.  At the end of the day, AD, that matters to me a great deal.
    I suspect that you and I would find ourselves in agreement in a number of areas:  transparency in government, and a well-informed electorate come to mind.  As it happens, I think that Katy is a very-well informed community now, thanks to the efforts of many people — your group among them.  But I also think that the bond issue has become very divisive, and some folks have grown quite heated.
    My blog is not the place for heat;  I don’t promote it, mostly because I don’t tolerate it well.  I try to make the best decisions I can, and I try to deliver my thoughts fully and honestly.    I’d like to see the same in the place I call home.

  17. Ms. McGarr, Mr. Muller and Mr. Tatum:
    The $1.2 million is an estimate to pay for bleachers, a concession stand, restrooms and other improvements to the baseball complex. It also included the cost of removing the existing structures and the additional concrete work involved. All of this is required by the ADA.
    This bond adds many classrooms including classroom additions at some existing schools.
    You have continued to post false information about KISD school costs on your website. You have failed to include items such as inflation costs, furniture, computers, and roadways.
    You have yet to explain to anyone how you would have KISD accommodate the additional 9000 students expected to arrive in the next three years. We already have 3000 elementary students who spend their whole day in portables and 8000 secondary students who spend part of their day in portables. What is your plan for the additional students if the bond fails as a result of your efforts?
    Texas Ethics complaints mean nothing unless substantiated. Your group has been fond of filing complaints in an effort to divert attention from the real issues.
    I am frankly sick and tired of your efforts to mislead our community and I will be very disappointed if your tactics succeed again as they did in May.

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