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.