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.