HISD dealing with $211 million shortfall for bond projects

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Some voters believe the Houston Independent School District pulled a bait and switch on a bond proposal they approved back in 2012.

One teacher at Davis High School took to social media to talk about her frustration with what she calls broken promises.

"Last week we were told we would not get our school built. And I was heartsick," Diane Morrow says. "People say you're angry. No I'm not angry I'm heartsick because these are my babies."

But Morrow says her babies aren't getting the best. She tells us the conditions at Davis High leave much to be desired. For starters, rats have fallen from her classroom ceiling.

"It's commonplace for us. We have rats all the time running down the hallways."

Davis is one of 20 schools that are supposed to be rebuilt with the $1.89 billion bond voters passed in 2012. But district officials say they're $211 million short of being able to finish all the promised projects.

"Are we going to modify the project designs to accommodate to this deficit?" wonders HISD Board of Education member Juliet Stipeche.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, a HISD spokesperson said "The amount of funding budgeted for each of those projects remains the same today as it was on Election Day. However, that dollar amount may not stretch as far as it once would have as a result of rising inflation and construction costs throughout the city."

Juliet Stipeche has requested an external audit to make sure that's really the reason promises may be broken.

"If it is truly attributable all to inflation, then let's take a look at that and make sure we can go to the community and say this is inflation, it's not based on anything we could've done or corrected."

"The audit is a good idea. But I don't think we're gonna find out anything more differently that what we already know: that you are not going to build these African American schools," says Gerry Monroe with the United Urban Alumni Association.

We met with Monroe outside of Yates High, one of the 20 schools scheduled to be rebuilt. He says the district has failed students and voters, disproportionately in largely African American communities.

"You basically robbed the constituents of their tax money. Because if you don't build the schools, we're still paying taxes on it," Monroe says.

HISD spokesperson Holly Huffman forwarded an email with the Chief Financial Officer's recommended solution for the potential $211 million shortfall. The email is below in its entirety.

    Board Members and Dr. Grier,

    Recently, you asked me to look into ways to fund the shortfall created by inflation that is affecting the 2012 Bond Projects. I have worked with the district's financial advisors, First Southwest, to determine options available. We have landed on a plan that would provide the district $200 million in proceeds without a negative effect to our Maintenance & Operation fund. We have previously issued maintenance tax notes for our facility maintenance needs. That obligation resulted in an annual payment of approximately $10.5 million and is five years from being paid off. This plan uses our federal subsidy payment (Build America Bonds) and continues the $10.5 million annual payment for maintenance tax obligations. The remaining balance of $11.2 million will be taken from the 2007 reserves. Let me know if you have any questions.


HISD says it will be up to the Board to decide how to distribute those funds amongst the schools.

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