Houston Press Mocks Stadium Cost Overrun Explanation

Covering Katy photo

KATY (Houston Press) – When voters in the Katy Independent School District thought they were approving $58 million for a brand-new stadium in 2014, it’s a pretty good bet that they didn’t know that didn’t include the cost of clearing the land for that stadium.

Turns out, that was an add-on, as determined and approved by KISD trustees at a May 2015 board meeting. More than $795,000 was taken out of the district’s General Operating Fund to pay for what most people would consider an essential component of building, well, pretty much anything – but that KISD spokeswoman Maria DiPetta insisted valiantly Tuesday was not.

The Houston Press tried to speak with KISD Superintendent Lance Hindt for a couple of days after news reports in the Houston Chronicle and on the website Covering Katy broke about what were called cost overruns and add-ons that meant an additional $12.3 million will be spent on the already pricey stadium and facilities around it – taking the total package to more than $70 million. But although we were told Hindt (who, granted, wasn’t on board while all this was going on but is speaking for the district now) really did want to speak to us, he just couldn’t fit us into his schedule.

Enter DiPetta, who said that people are misunderstanding and that the $58 million was ever only supposed to cover the actual structure: “which was the 12,000-seat stadium, the press box, restrooms, concessions and field house and the parking around it.” Clearing the land – well, that just wasn’t part of it.

In 2013 Katy voters rejected a $69.5 million, 14,000-seat stadium that was the largest part by far of a total $99 million bond election. Never-say-die administrators sliced and diced and got the new proposal down to a purported $58 million stadium, which they plunked in the middle of a $748 million take-it-or-leave-it bond election that, among other things, provided for a number of new schools and renovations for existing ones to alleviate overcrowded conditions. The new approach worked; they got their new stadium.

Since then, trustees have been approving additional expenditures, such as another $6,944,457 in infrastructure money from the 2014 bond issue for drainage, utilities and “some roadwork” to serve the multi-purpose Student Activity Facilities complex.

Critics say by labeling each vote as being about the “Student Activity Facilities complex” administrators and trustees were purposefully misdirecting voters who didn’t realize these were funds directed for additional stadium costs. DiPetta insisted Tuesday that there was always a line item in the 2014 bond election setting aside $10 million for infrastructure – which there certainly is – and so voters approved that as well.

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3 Comments

  1. KISD is at its hazy financial best when it come to getting taxpayers approvals on bonds in order to spend money from them AND the General M&O = and they ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS trot out the PR team to clean up the mess if/when their misleading campaigns are discovered. I’ve been associated with building a number of facilities, and NEVER would have I been able to ignore/separate land prep and other infrastructure necessities from the total cost of the facility.

    But this is education, where 99% of those in control of the money have NEVER EVER worked with large-scale finances prior to being a school administrator. You then have board members that reputedly are corporate executives and THEY either A)can’t be bothered actually knowing what they’re told to approve by the Administration, or B) intentionally ignore their responsibility to maintain any semblance of transparency with taxpayer monies. So in the end the taxpayers take it up their backsides time after time after time…SMH.

    I have hopes that Hindt ends much of these old-time practices but as of now he’s off to a slow start. Between him and George Scott, either things actually start to change in the next two years or they never will.

  2. Stop building so many low property taxed apartments and putting the tax burden on single-family homeowners. That would help with over-crowding.

  3. After reading this article from the Houston Press, I have two more observations:

    First, as a school board member many years ago, I asked the administrative head of construction for a tour of some facilities. One of them was Rhodes Stadium.

    I already knew that the stadium was built on land that Dr. Mark Bing sold the district for a million dollars way back when. That was way over what it was worth at the time, but that’s another story.

    I asked the administrator when we were walking the property what the purpose of the ditch was on the north side of the parking lot. He laughed and pointed out that “it was a ditch to nowhere,” and he didn’t know why it was there.

    When I looked, sure enough the ditch was just there with no source of water, no outlet, and no reason for it to be there. My observations were verified by the administrator.

    Imagine my surprise when looking at the plans for the new KISD second stadium to see that the ditch to nowhere is still there, complete with bridges over it!

    I’m sure there will be a reason why it’s part of the scheme, but I’d have a hard time believing anything they say about that! To me it’s just another blunder brought to us by a bumbling school board.

    Second, some of us discovered, with the help of some professionals who knew, that KISD pads all bond items by 30%. That’s not an arbitrary figure; that’s just what they do.

    By taking that rather devious step, KISD administrators then have extra money to spend however they want over the pertinent years of the bond expenditures. They call it “saved money,” but we all know better.

    We’ve seen that “saved money” appear with 5+ million dollar Astroturfed practice fields that were not needed but wanted by the superintendent and so on.

    The conclusion that I have is that KISD has plenty of money to build the schools that they promised in 2014 (high school, two junior highs and three elementary schools and architectural plans for more) –and if there are as many students coming as the superintendent says, they need to get started.

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