Hindt and Fox Defend Cost Overruns on Student Activity Facility

Voters: When a $58 million project is not really a $58 million project

KATY (Covering Katy) – When it comes to Katy Independent School District construction bonds there could be a warning that says objects on the ballot will be more expensive than they appear. Superintendent Lance Hindt defended the $12 million price increase in the cost of the student activity facility and believes that voters can’t expect that all infrastructure costs will be included in the quoted price of a construction project.

In 2014 voters approved a student activity facility that included a stadium, a field house, a press box, a road that connected it to Rhodes stadium and numerous other amenities. Voters were told they were approving $58 million for a student activity facility.

“We may have some infrastructure costs that will be in another line item, or technology costs that may be in another line item,” Hindt said in his defense of the student activity facility being more than 20 percent over budget.

“The bond review committee, which was almost 200 folks, said we want the best stadium that we can get, a 12,000-seat stadium, but we do not want to spend more than $58 million on the stadium itself,” Hindt said.

Hindt separated the cost of the stadium from the cost of the student activity facility, but it was not separated in the ballot language nor the promotional material distributed by the district in 2014.  Still, Hindt insisted that the stadium is on budget and attributed the 20 percent cost over-run to the additional items that are part of the student activity facility.

A bond committee member who did not want his name revealed said Hindt is not making a truthful claim.

“The price was supposed to be for everything,” said the bond committee member. “The price was supposed to include all infrastructure for the whole student activity facility.”

“We’ve never had a situation where everything wasn’t included in the price when it comes to building a project from scratch,” the bond committee member added.

School Board President Rebecca Fox told the Houston Chronicle that she feels comfortable with the total cost of the stadium because it did not make the tax rate go up.

“I’ve attended (citizen bond committee) meetings and have heard the desires for the 12,000-seat stadium with the emphasis on not raising the tax rate, and we’ve fulfilled that,” Fox told the Chronicle.

“That is a falsehood,” the bond committee member said. “What people were concerned about was raising our taxes, not the tax rate. They wanted to know, will my taxes go up? The truth of the matter is that our taxes have gone up every year. Taxpayers are not concerned about the tax rates. They are concerned about how much we actually pay for taxes,” the bond committee member said.

Additional money for drainage, utilities, upgraded road construction to handle the increased traffic and the cost to clear the land at the start of the project have all added to the cost of the stadium because they were not factored into the $58 million price tag.

Everyone agrees that the $3 million that will be used to finish off the second floor of the field house was never part of the package. Board member Henry Dibrell voted against spending that additional money but went along with the rest of the board on the additional $9 million in spending for the project.

“Do you see where voters could feel deceived?” Hindt was asked by Covering Katy. He never directly answered the question, but did say we would not have another project that will be as big as the student activity facility that was approved by voters in 2014.

“This is why we want a line item bond, and they won’t do it,” said former school board member Mary Garr. “The stuff about infrastructure is baloney,” she added.

The cost of the stadium is now more than 20 percent over budget, and that number will grow when the $1.8 million scoreboard/video replay screen is added to the project. Although, Hindt says the cost of that item will pay for itself overtime because advertisements will be placed on it.

10 Comments

  1. I think that “market research firm” that polled the community and was supposed to “help with communication,” could also be considered a stadium “infrastructure” expense. After all, they paid this firm $750,000 for their expertise over a three year period if it’s the same one I’m remembering.

    Since KISD is prone to spread the tax wealth around to vendors and consultants of all sorts, I’m guessing they may still be on the tab and racking up more payments.

    I’m also curious if the costs for the feeding and nurturing of the bond committee and the high-priced “facilitator” that they brought in to perform the Delphi process are also included in the tab.

  2. Just incredible. Is the school board: A)Stupid at worst or totally naive at best? B)That out of touch with the Katy taxpayers ? C)Shady corrupt members of a new mafia? D)All of the above?
    As Upset posted above the school board had no chance to raise the rates THIS YEAR. But 1-5 years from now will they be able to say the same?

  3. Sorry Lance, but the infrastructure IS a part of the construction. Period. I can’t say I’m not surprised by Hindt’s buy-in to the “justified” expenses – I hoped for more. However, it’s early yet and this boondoggle happened before he came on-board – and because it’s early he still has to play a few political games with the board in order to build relationships with them. He still has a chance to really establish himself as someone NOT out to glorify himself and his admininstrative cronies like the last two “leaders” of KISD.

  4. For the time being I will give our new superintendent the benefit of the doubt as he was not here for the discussion of the new stadium.

    I sat in the peanut section of the bond committee meetings and spoke to some of the school board members at that time.

    Maybe others will come forward who recall things differently but there was no discussion about what was and was not included in the stadium request. It was clear to all the TOTAL cost of the stadium was upper most in everyone’s mind. The voters had just rejected a stadium request due to its expense. The school board even brought in a market research firm who polled the community and told the bond committee outright that the stadium would NOT pass with the voters unless it was tied to classroom building projects. The “fix” was in on day one.

    Ms. Fox is so out of touch with reality on this and wants to take a victory lap because she says the school board held the line on our tax rate. Please bear in mind our school board is charging us almost the highest tax rate allowed by law. They could not change it by much if they wanted to do so. Taxpayer’ concerns have to do with the number of tax dollars we surrender to government, not the tax rate per se.

    My school taxes are HIGHER now than ever and from the recent statement I just received they are going UP again even as the rate stays the same.

    Is our school board president’s house any different? Does she not see the ever increasing burden on taxpayers? Is she telling us to “eat cake” as Marie Antoinette did before they executed her during the French revolution? Ms. Fox is one of two things on this point. Either she really is clueless or she is lying to us. She can be my neighbor if she is clueless, but can’t be on my school board if she is either clueless or a liar.

    I hope this May voters will show up at the polls and send more people like Mr. Scott to the Board Room.

  5. Another job well done by KISD. When we all voted this project down , The same people came in the back door and they incorporated the same Expansion in with other projects, As I said before this was a pressure cooker if ever I saw one. As usual it’s the fox guarding the hen house.

  6. Tax payers ARE worried about the tax RATE. No it isn’t ‘going up’ right now, but remember that KISD ‘bought’ the rate down last year. The RATE will go up substantially when the bonds start being repaid (I’m guessing next year but in the 2018 tax rate).
    I was on the bond committee and while we wanted the ‘best’ stadium, we wanted the best for our money.
    I have all the info from the bond meetings and would be happy to sit with anyone to go over the info. Dennis Spellman has my permission to pass my email address along.

  7. The KISD administration and school board have never been concerned with transparency. The numerous committees and meetings prior to the bond were just smoke and mirrors with members of the community duped into thinking their input was important. Taxpayers should demand to know how the board has wasted their money.

  8. There will be even more money spent on Frailey’s Folly but taxpayers won’t know about it. KISD is adept at hiding excessive expenses and the school board is too lazy to monitor the administration and their vendor buddies. Mr Hindt draws a large salary but is he REALLY studying the details or just signing the checks? Mr Frailey saw this coming and his retirement let him off the hook.

  9. The bond committee member is right about the tax rate vs. what we actually pay in taxes. And just what defines a student activity center? What are they going to do with the old stadium?

  10. Cost overruns of 20% on this project are just bad management by the School Board. That the new superintendent bought into the cover up of all the extraneous expenses is disappointing. He should have let the board members and the former superintendent who committed the errors bear the consequences of their combined decisions. His job description doesn’t include saving the hides of mindless decision makers.

    In my opinion, there are many more expenses attached to this project that haven’t yet been brought forward. The land deals, the initial architectural plans that were used or even not used that were drawn up before the Board ever called for the first Bond proposal in 2013 are part of the expense.

    I’m sure there are other expenses as well that have not yet been uncovered. Hopefully someone will eventually provide the taxpayers with the total cost of this stadium.

    We all need to see an actual number.

    Mary McGarr

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