To the Editor:
The KISD Board of Trustees should consider telling the Bond Steering Committee co-chairs to go back to the drawing board over the next year and bring forth a value-conscious bond package.
First — it must sharpen the pencil. KISD leadership has a track record of overstating costs to bond voters, then taking the “savings” and reallocating them to other non-approved projects. In the last bond, $45M was requested for Elementary School #36 and nearly immediately, the budget for the school was set at $40M.
Just the year prior to this bond, a similar standard-design school cost just $24.9M. Even the 7% inflation rate adopted by KISD for this bond — an inflation rate never proven beyond KISD-picked anecdotal evidence — doesn’t justify what KISD told voters it needed. A school that actually cost about $25M in 2017 turned into a $45M bond proposal to voters in 2018. This must stop.
Second — the board must resist putting KISD taxpayers in the top quartile of debt. Despite KISD attempts to persuade the BSC that the debt load would be similar to other school districts, in reality the debt, when adjusted for relative median family income, will put us in the unenviable position of having the top 25% most expensive debt load per student.
The board members should get a briefing prior to any bond go-ahead that depicts what other tax increases are likely because of anticipated Impact Aid reductions so they fully understand and communicate the full tax impact, both O&M and I&S, to the voters.
Third — the board must hold accountable the person responsible for the “survey” that was used to persuade the BSC that the community desires were fully represented by what was in fact a push-poll.
Because of tough questioning from fellow BSC members, we now know that this was not a survey to solicit community input; if it was it would have clearly asked if voters desired a central second stadium or multiple stadiums at each high school. Rather, this was a targeted survey of “those likely to vote in low turnout elections” to ascertain what messages best led to bond approval.
This survey deliberately 2x over-sampled those over age 55 and 2x under-sampled younger, less-likely-to-vote taxpayers. It zero-sampled anybody who primarily spoke Spanish in the household.
This was not an information-gathering tool; it was an information operations weapon, and this “survey” must not be accepted at face-value for representing the desires of the public.
Being deliberative before spending another quarter-billion dollars is never a fault. This board should not be rushed by scantily proven inflation rates to impel it to “decide now or it’s going to cost so much more next year.”
Being deliberate with this second bond is even more essential than the past $426M bond. A one-year delay allows full public discussion that can build indisputable public consensus for the decade to come.
Howard “Scot” Arey
Bond Steering Committee member