Trustees approved a balanced budget June 28 for fiscal year 2022-23 in Montgomery ISD, totaling $85.09 million in general fund expenses and $85.14 million in general fund revenue, according to information from the district.

This is a $6 million increase from the $79.5 million in revenue and $79.3 million in spending approved for FY 2021-22, according to previous reporting.

The budget approved for FY 2022-23, which begins July 1, includes employee raises adopted in the district's compensation plan in April, such as a $2,000 raise for teachers and a 3% increase on the midpoint salary for all other employees, said Kris Lynn, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. According to a June 28 release from the district, all returning employees will also receive a $1,000 retention stipend with some specialized and high-need positions receiving an additional $500.

"The compensation for our amazing employees has been the highest priority for this board," Superintendent Heath Morrison said during the meeting.

The approved budget also includes funding for two additional MISD police officers to ensure each campus has a dedicated police officer, district officials said. According to the release, MISD has added seven positions to its police department since 2020.

"Since I first became superintendent, we've been adding officers each year, but with the additional officers being hired this year, we now will have enough officers for every campus to have a dedicated officer at that campus and then two officers at each high school," Morrison said in an interview June 30.

The budget also includes the creation of a gifted and talented coordinator and additional specialized learning department staffing, according to the release.

"We have additional state dollars this year that have to be directed toward gifted and talented instruction, and so we have a committee of gifted and talented staff and parents that have met all year, and ... one of the highest requests that they had was a [coordinator] who could supervise these programs, ensure consistency amongst the entire school district, help in identifying additional students who should be serviced through gifted and talented instruction, and then just really enhancing opportunities," Morrison said in a June 30 interview.

In addition, he said the additional specialized learning department staff includes hiring more diagnosticians, more staff for dyslexia services and other positions to help decrease the amount of time from when students are referred for special education services to when they are possibly accepted to receive services.

“We are pleased that the budget is balanced, our teachers and staff are receiving pay increases, and there are targeted investments to continue our district’s commitment to enhance school security and add positions for specialized learning needs—all important priorities for our community," Board Vice President Laurie Turner said in the release.

During the June 28 meeting, the district also approved $87,566 in startup costs to implement mandatory ID cards for student and staff in the 2022-23 school year in an effort to increase safety and security on campuses, and the district approved $49,000 to purchase Halo smart sensors to detect vaping within restrooms at Lake Creek and Montgomery high schools.

However, trustees and district officials said they are also concerned about maintaining a balanced budget in FY 2023-24, as the district is seeing less state funding per student than the state average.

Morrison said the gap has grown each year since 2016 between the average state funding per student statewide and what MISD has received per student.

According to the release, MISD received $7,499 per student in FY 2016-17, which was $2,078 less than the state average. MISD received $8,070 per student in FY 2019-20, which was $2,740 less than the state average.

"This budget was probably one of the hardest ones to put together in my 21-year career, and so I do see it becoming exponentially harder next year," Lynn said during the meeting.

However, trustees are expected to approve a tax rate for FY 2022-23 in August, and with rising property values, MISD anticipates the tax rate will be reduced from $1.26 per $100 valuation to $1.23 per $100 valuation, according to the release.