Bond spending so far

HISD is presumably going to spend some amount of money to get its bond passed. It has already spent some money putting the bond package together.

Houston ISD has spent at least $700,000 developing and promoting its $4.4 school bond proposal that it plans to put on the ballot in November, according to district records.

HISD said in a statement that it has paid at least three different firms between February and April to “research, explore and engage the community on the need for a potential bond,” which includes conducting a facilities assessment, holding focus groups and meetings, developing websites and presentations, and analyzing enrollment and facility utilization data.

The district said it has budgeted to pay for all of its bond-related expenses through its general fund, but it did not say how much it plans to spend in total on the bond before a potential vote. If the bond is approved, the appointed Board of Managers approved a resolution that would allow HISD to reimburse itself with bond funds for any eligible bond expenses spent after April 12.

“If the Board does not decide to put the bond on the ballot, or if the voters do not approve the bond, all of these initial expenditures will inform future decision-making and drive the ongoing work to improve the facilities conditions for all students,” the district said in a statement.

First, as a matter of full disclosure, I’m friends with Mustafa Tameez, the CEO of Outreach Strategies, which is one of the three firms mentioned in this story.

The main issue I have with this story is that I don’t know how to evaluate it. It’s not surprising to me that HISD would spend some money putting the bond proposal together. That seems like a fairly normal expenditure, the sort of thing you hire consultants for since you don’t have that expertise in house. What I don’t know is how this compares to previous bond issuances. Is the amount spent on the development of this proposal in line with earlier ones, with adjustments made for inflation and the size of the proposal, or is it not? How does it compare with other large urban/suburban school district issuances? I have no idea. It would be nice to know. This is something that should be checked as a matter of course, but especially for this no-oversight administration, which has extensive transparency issues and deserves zero benefit of the doubt.

Now, assuming the bond does go forward, there will be more spending to come. HISD will spend some amount of money promoting the bond, though they are limited in what they can say. Others can set up PACs to support or oppose the bond, and it remains to be seen how much money will be spent on those efforts. With the lack of competitive races locally, this could be the big ticket item on the ballot. We’ll know for sure by mid-August.

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