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6 Investigates: CCISD tax hike to pay for damages not covered by insurance

Posted: 4:02 PM, Oct 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-15 19:35:19-04

Like so many homeowners and business owners in the area, Corpus Christi ISD also had damage from Hurricane Harvey – just on a much larger scale.

“We did have some roofs where you could really see the damage,” said Catherine Susser, president of CCISD Board. “Things were torn off and blown out and we had water into the buildings and classrooms.”

But some of the roof damage wasn’t as obvious because it was caused by something called wind uplift.

“The roofs literally get lifted up and laid back down and so the damage is subtle,” Susser said. “And it takes a lot of investigation.”

Of the district’s 68 schools, every campus had some kind of damage, district officials said.

CCISD has filed an insurance claim asking its insurance companies to pay for more than $100 million dollars in repairs. But so far insurance has paid $12 million dollars on that claim, said Donna Hohn, CCISD comptroller.

About $4 million of it paid for the insurance deductible.That left the district with just $8 million dollars for repairs.

“Between what they’ve given us and what we expect,” Hohn said. “We think there is a big gap.”

And that’s why CCISD taxpayers are being charged extra this year. It’s so the district can start roof replacements on five schools.

To do it, the school board approved in August a 4.5 cent property tax increase. For the average taxpayer that owns a property valued at $100,000, it will amount to about a $10 tax increase. All together – the tax hike will generate about $6.7 million dollars for the district.

It’s money that CCISD already has sitting in a $70 million fund balance.

So why not use that money instead of using a provision in the law that allows a one-time, tax hike?

“If you were to dip into it, you would have to replenish it,” Susser said, about the fund balance.

And the insurance dispute could take more than a year to resolve. Even then, it’s not known how much insurance money will be paid or if it will be enough to cover the repairs, Hohn said.

To understand the extent of the damage, weeks ago KRIS 6 News requested copies of CCISD’s insurance claims under the Texas Public Information Act. CCISD recently denied that request on the basis that there could be private information listed in those claims about the insurance companies. The Texas Attorney General’s Office will decide whether the information should be disclosed to the public.

After CCISD’s denial, KRIS 6 News asked for a list of the schools damaged and the kind of damage sustained, including photos.

Instead, CCISD sent eight photos of hurricane-related damage, which it called a “sampling” of the damage. Those photos were included in the broadcast report for this story.

A KRIS 6 News investigation also found the district’s insurance claim includes schools that were planned to be demolished, including Cullen Middle School. The campus was open during Hurricane Harvey but district officials have long planned to close down the aging school. It closed in May, and is in the process of being demolished. If CCISD does receive insurance money for a now demolished school, Hohn explained how it can be used.

“They’ll pay the dollar amount that would have been at that school and then we can take those (dollars) and move them somewhere else,” Hohn said, referring to another school that needs repairs.