The Conroe ISD board received the draft 2022-23 budget, which includes salary increases and a potential tax rate cut, at its Aug. 2 meeting. The budget and tax rate will be approved at the regular August 16 board meeting.
ICAD Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice said budget targets for the 2022-23 fiscal year include meeting needs for the school year, opening Gordon-Reed Elementary School and providing a competitive compensation plan that takes inflation into account.
The district’s spending budget is determined by enrollment, but the revenue it receives from the state is determined by its average daily attendance. Rice said that over the past 10 years, enrollment has grown steadily with the exception of the 2020-21 school year.
“We had a small drop because of the COVID[-19]. … However, in 2021-22, we rebounded with 3,200 students,” Rice said.
The district anticipates 1,750 new students this school year, which will increase state funding to the district, he said.
“We’re really funded on student enrollment in the truest sense of the word; it’s like a zero-base budget. If we didn’t have [new] students, we wouldn’t have [new] funding,” Superintendent Curtis Null said.
Property values in the district are expected to rise from $43.1 billion to $52.5 billion, but Rice said the increase doesn’t mean the district’s net income is rising.
“Some mistakenly believe that with property values growing, the district will have a windfall of cash in our operating budget, and that’s simply not true,” Rice said. “Rising property values benefit the state, not the district. … The only increase in our income this year is based on bringing new students into the classroom.”
As property values increase, the state reduces district funding dollar-for-dollar, he said. The district’s total state duty remains at $576 million, regardless of the change in value, he said.
“The only change is how much the state pays versus what our local taxpayers have to pay,” Rice said.
The projected tax rate for 2022-2023 is set at $1.1146 per $100 of assessment, which represents a decrease of $0.0614 compared to 2021-2022.
Under the proposed budget, teachers and librarians in the district will receive a $1,500 pay raise and all other employees will receive a 2% raise, Rice said. The minimum hourly rate has been increased to $13 per hour and salaries for newly hired teachers will start at $60,000.
Student-teacher ratios will also see a change in the new budget, Rice said. Pre-kindergarten ratios will increase from 22:1 to 19:1, and ratios for grades five and six will increase from 26:1 and 25:1. The district will add 195 new positions to accommodate these changes as well as the increase in registrations, he said.
The estimated overall revenue and expenditure is $619.83 million.
“It’s a balanced budget,” Rice said. “Compared to last year, this is a 3.98% increase in our budget.”
On August 5, the local tax rate and assessed values will be finalized. At its August 16 meeting, council will hold a public hearing and vote to approve or reject the budget.