Conroe ISD considers grades during outbreak, proposes lower 2020-21 tax rate

Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice and Superintendent Curtis Null discuss the proposed 2020-21 tax rate over a Zoom call. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice and Superintendent Curtis Null discuss the proposed 2020-21 tax rate over a Zoom call. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice and Superintendent Curtis Null discuss the proposed 2020-21 tax rate over a Zoom call. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Conroe ISD board of trustees heard a projected budget for the 2020-21 school year during a virtual workshop April 7. District officials said the district could lower its tax rate from $1.23 per $100 valuation to $1.2135.

Proposed budget

Chief Financial Office Darrin Rice said the decrease is possible because the Texas Legislature allowed the district to access an additional golden penny, which are pennies within a Texas school district’s maintenance and operations, or M&O, tax bill that cannot be subject to state recapture. The district currently uses four golden pennies.

Per House Bill 3, which was signed into law June 11, the Legislature will compress CISD’s tax rate so that its local tax collection will only grow by 2.5% every year, Rice said.

The district projects enrolling its average of 1,500 students in 2020, bringing its actual enrollment to 66,298.

Rice suggested planning $580.33 million in funding and $576.02 million in expenditures. For teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors, Rice suggested a 3% increase to match cost-of-living increases. The trustees have not voted on pay increases for other employees.

The board will hear a finalized presentation of the proposed budget in July, but it will not adopt a budget and tax rate until August.

Grades during shutdown

Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines updated the trustees on the work the district has been doing, including providing distance learning, distributing meals and considering end-of-year events.

Hines said as grading becomes a higher priority during the shutdown, the district will only allow for a student’s grade point average to go up from their grades before the shutdown, not down. There will also be no penalties for late work and no final exams.

Hines said the entire district has been working to deal with the outbreak.

“There’s been a lot of great departments working hard,” Hines said.

Oak Ridge project

Superintendent Curtis Null said the district is in conversation with the city of Shenandoah to expand its project at Oak Ridge High School. Null said the city approached the district to develop a “true master plan” similar to the master plan at Conroe High School.

This plan focuses on a road that bisects Oak Ridge High School and its ninth grade campus, which creates a lot of traffic and stress for drivers, according to Null.

Easy Foster, the administrative director of planning and construction, said the project would be expanded to build a road around the campus, not through it. However, Null said the project would not force the district to go over budget; it would simply move funds from the second phase of bond project funds to cover the costs.

Foster and Null said they will continue talks with Shenandoah city officials.
By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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