KISD Board of Trustees Approves Leasing Agreement with Katy Area Economic Development Council

KISD school board trustee George Scott.

By George Slaughter

The Katy Independent School Board of Trustees Monday night approved a lease agreement with the Katy Area Economic Development Council (KAEDC), but not before trustee George Scott expressed concerns about the district’s relationship with that organization.

Under the agreement, KAEDC, which leases office space from the school district at 438 FM 1463, must pay fair market rental rates. Scott said this had not been the case in the past.

Scott posed three questions “of many” that would guide his approach to the district’s future relationship with KAEDC:

  • Will KAEDC allow the district to have “significant input” in a review of the cost benefit analysis processes used by KAEDC to evaluate the financial impact of economic development projects the organization supports whether located inside or outside Katy ISD boundaries.
  • Will KAEDC provide the superintendent and school board copies or access to review copies of all cost-benefit analysis reports conducted by or on behalf of KAEDC regarding the Rooms To Go project in Waller County. Scott said such a review would describe the basic competence or incompetence of KAEDC.
  • Will KAEDC provide the superintendent and school board copies or access to review copies of all documents and answer questions that would confirm or refute whether KAEDC’s leadership has sought or still seeks to establish formal contractual relationships with any government institutions in Waller County – other than the City of Katy – to formally represent or negotiate economic development projects in the non-Katy ISD portion of Waller County.

For the full statement, see below. To see Scott delivering an abridged version of his statement at the meeting, see the web site.

The vote to approve the leasing agreement was 5-0. Trustees Courtney Doyle and Bryan Michalsky were not at the meeting. But while Monday’s vote was unanimous, questions and disagreement preceded it.

Trustee Charles Griffin asked Scott why he made frequent references to cost benefit analysis in his statement. Scott said the cost benefit analysis is a primary function of any economic development organization. Scott said  said that KAEDC should be able to “reach into a filing cabinet from five years ago” and share its projections for the Rooms To Go project in Waller County.

Trustee Rebecca Fox said she “completely, 100% disagreed” with Scott’s analysis. She said she was not prepared with the statistics that Scott called for, but said she was sure she could get them.

“I fully support the leadership of KAEDC,” Fox said, adding that its leadership represents professionalism, integrity, and vision.

In response to Fox, Scott said reality of economic development was that Katy was going to grow.

“If we or any group stood out at the city limits and said, don’t come, there’s no way that Katy would not have grown,” Scott said. “Whether or not KAEDC can take credit for the growth of suburbia is questionable at best.”

Scott said Fox asked a fair question as to why he wanted to see the Rooms To Go cost benefit analysis. He said that the heart and soul of an organization is the quality of its cost benefit analysis.

“I want to see their cost benefit analysis,” Scott said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Fox continued her defense of KAEDC.

“The cost benefit analysis that KAEDC has contributed to the Katy ISD since its inception, I’d be interested in those numbers, too,” Fox said to Scott. “I am sure they are far more impressive than one you’re trying to get on one single project. But if I were (KADEC President/CEO) Lance LaCour, I would tell us to take a flying leap because he does not have to give that to us. For heaven sakes, he’s busy creating jobs, finding companies that want to come to the Katy area, bringing jobs, families and tax base to us that gives relief to homeowners. For that, I am grateful to the KAEDC.”

Closing, Scott said that success by assertion is not a standard of accountability.

“If they have accomplished all that you (Fox) say they have accomplished, then open their filing cabinets,” Scott said. “When you say Lance LaCour should tell this district to take a flying leap, who are we? We are a board that represents the rank and file taxpayers of Katy ISD, so if you tell this board to take a flying leap, what you’re telling the Katy ISD taxpayers is to enjoy the flying leap, and that’s not my position.”

In a statement provided to The Katy News, LaCour said:

“Katy Area Economic Development Council (Katy Area EDC) would like to thank the Katy Independent School District (Katy ISD) Board of Trustees for its willingness to work with our organization. Katy Area EDC is proud of the work we do for the various communities that we serve. We have a strong track record of attracting superior businesses to the area. We are more than willing to work with and share information with Katy ISD. Mr. Scott is asking for specific information about Rooms To Go. We need to contact our Rooms To Go representatives to determine if we can release this proprietary information. As soon as we get a response from Rooms To Go, we will immediately let Mr. Scott know.”

Scott said that Hindt “changed the dynamics” of the district’s relationship with KAEDC.

“Dr. Hindt deserves enormous credit for that,” Scott said.

As for his disagreement with Fox, Scott was conciliatory, saying that after the back-and-forth they shook hands and hugged.

“We’ve basically declared peace,” he said. “I just wanted to create a public record.”

The board Monday also adopted the recommendation of an independent hearing examiner regarding the discharge and suspension of a Morton Ranch High School teacher. The Katy News is following up on this story.

The board considered the following items for final review and approval at its upcoming September 25 meeting:

  • A missed school day waiver application to the state Commissioner of Education for 10 bad weather days.
  • The KISD 2017-2018 School Health Advisory Council representatives.
  • A CenterPoint Energy electrical easement associated with the construction of elementary school #41.
  • A contract to replace doors and hardware at identified locations.
  • A principal/assistant principal substitute list.
  • Preparing, signing, and submitting a waiver application to the state Commissioner of Education for elementary school campuses that exceed the allowable class size of 22:1, in addition to campuses that could potentially exceed the ratio due to increased enrollment during the 2017-2018 school year.
  • A proclamation for Principal’s Month.
  • A proclamation for Texas Education Human Resources Day.
  • The September 2017 budget amendments.
  • The 2017-2018 debt service tax rate.
  • The 2017-2018 maintenance and operations tax rate.

Full Statement from George Scott Regarding the Relationship between the Katy Independent School District and the Katy Area Economic Development Council

EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows here is the full text of Katy Independent School Board Trustee George Scott’s statement at Monday’s KISD Board Work Study Meeting. To see the abridged version Scott actually delivered at the meeting, see the web site.

Part of the responsibility of being an elected official I believe is explaining the ‘why’ of my vote as needed. That makes this statement consistent with my service as a school board member and board operating procedures. This lease agreement reflects that we finally now have a superintendent of schools unlike the district’s two prior ones who is no longer willing to give special benefits and status to the KAEDC (Katy Area Economic Development Council) that it did not deserve and should have never had.

The employees and taxpayers of Katy ISD should be proud of his leadership as I am. He’s earned it.

Every board member is actually two individuals:

  1. A 1/7 member of the school board with no individual authority or power, and,
  2. An individual who fully retains the power of citizenship.

As a 1/7 member of this board:

I will vote for this free market lease agreement with the KAEDC. It’s long past time Katy ISD start taking some of the organization’s money in sharp contrast to the its past use of taxpayer-owned facilities thus restoring in reality and perception genuine operational independence and integrity between the district and the KAEDC.

EDC President/CEO Lance LaCour

However, as a 1/7 board member, I do not believe this genuine private sector lease alone is sufficient to establish a fully productive relationship going forward. It’s also time for the Katy EDC to come under very intense scrutiny relative to its actual value to Katy ISD contrasting with the KAEDC’s self-asserted value. An even tougher question is whether the professional leadership of the organization has sought to take the organization down the path of economic development that is counterproductive to the interests of Katy ISD taxpayers.

For the next couple of months at least, there are too many issues on the plate of this district’s administration and staff and in fact this school board for this matter to go to the front burner. Now is not the time, but it will come perhaps towards the end of the year or in early 2018. The stage can be set now.

As a 1/7 member of this corporate board I may ask my colleagues to direct a full “sunset-like” review of the Katy Area EDC to determine a genuine, credible cost-benefit study of the true benefits this organization provides to Katy ISD taxpayers. However, my confidence in Dr. Hindt as the district’s leader allows me to be substantially deferential to his judgment of a better path forward that would accomplish the same objectives. He’s more than earned that level of respect from me.

There are questions and issues aplenty that arise about the KAEDC:

  • Has the organization’s professional leadership sought to modify or re-prioritize its organizational focus to primarily targeting economic development in the non-Katy ISD portion of Waller County by seeking negotiated relationships with Waller County governments or institutions?
  • Do past contracts of the organization which furthered that strategy still represent its goal for the future? If the answer to that question is ‘yes;’ then the organization owes Katy ISD and the City of Katy among others an honest answer.

I have serious skepticism about the caliber of the professional leadership as it relates to the organization’s 100% commitment to serving the needs of the taxpayers of Katy ISD and the City of Katy.

It should be understood that a competent, non-manipulated, and trustworthy cost benefit analysis process updated to track reality with original projections for economic development projects is absolutely essential to the future credibility of such organizations.

The professional leadership of the KAEDC should proactively provide our superintendent and school board its organization’s cost benefit analysis as updated over time on the “Rooms to Go” project for which it claims credit in the non-Katy ISD portion of Waller County. It is the one project that is sufficiently in the books that will allow an evaluation of the KAEDC’s basic competence in the arena of cost-benefit analysis more particularly in regarding to Katy ISD but overall as well.

Failure to take that specific action coupled with failure to candidly answer questions about the KAEDC’s ambitions for all of Waller County should be perceived as an act of bad faith with the taxpayers of Katy ISD.

Bottom line: Does the Katy ISD school board as a corporate entity have a due diligence and ethical need to know as the board evaluates any relationship going forward? My 1/7 answer is yes.

Beyond our board membership, we are also individuals armed with the power of citizenship which none of us surrender for the honor and privilege of being at this table.

  • As an individual, I call on the broader news media that serves Katy to follow the leadership of Dennis Spellman and Covering Katy in this regard whose work on this issue has produced superior journalism that has opened a window into the institutional arrogance of the professional leadership at the EDC.
  • Hopefully, other genuine news outlets reporting on Katy such as the Houston Chronicle and the Katy Times that do not seek or accept trade out relationships with the Katy EDC that compromises their news rooms will not view this as competitive journalism, but a story which merits and demands the best of the tradition in proud community journalism.

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