Carroll ISD trustees amended their 2021-22 general fund budget Oct. 4 to reflect their newly approved tax rate and recent pay increases for district staff.

On Sept. 27, the board of trustees approved a total tax rate of $1.286, which includes the levying of the fifth golden penny on top of the original $1.2586 rate the budget had been based on. With the change, the tax rate is now expected to generate an additional $520,487 in net general fund revenue.

During the same meeting, additional compensation was approved for special education paraprofessionals and auxiliary employees. The increase will cost the district an additional $334,923 from their approved fiscal year 2021-22 budget.

According to documents given to the board, the amendment will yield a net increase of $185,564 to the fund balance. This will bring the budget into a surplus.

The pay increase for special education paraprofessionals and auxiliary employees comes as the district has been struggling to hire staff to fill several vacancies resulting from a large number of resignations in the first two weeks of August, according to Lauren Wurman, executive director of human resources.

“Since the beginning of the [2021-22] school year, it’s been very difficult finding special education paraprofessionals for many districts in the DFW area,” Wurman told the board Sept. 27. “There is not a district around us that is fully staffed with special education paraprofessionals.”

The majority of the paraprofessionals who resigned were either hired as teachers in CISD and elsewhere or left due to COVID-19 concerns, Wurman said.

“We did get [caught] a little off guard because the resignations came in later than we had in previous years,” she said, informing trustees the district has overall been receiving fewer applications for educators in both special education and regular classrooms.

Wurman told the trustees the district has 15 vacancies in its special education paraprofessional staff—two spots are pending, and five are being covered by contractors. She also said COVID-19-related absences and a lack of substitute teachers have placed additional strain on resources.

However, those staffing need numbers do fluctuate yearly based on each specialized individualized education program and each campus’s needs.