The Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees approved the 2022-23 budget with unanimous support June 13, including 2% salary increases for all employees as well as a $1,000 stipend for full-time professionals and a $2,000 stipend for full-time paraprofessionals and hourly workers.

Board members said while revenue constraints prevented them from approving the raises they believed teachers deserved, they worked to develop the best solution possible with the resources they had.

The $1.16 billion budget includes a $109 million deficit with state aid making up 40.7% of revenue and local property taxes making up 56.9% of revenue. However, Superintendent Mark Henry said stimulus funding is expected to make up the difference for the district to maintain a balanced budget.

Trustee Debbie Blackshear at the June 9 board work session said she believes teachers have earned more significant raises, but state funding levels restricted the district.

“If I could, I would give our teachers a 10% pay increase because we know ... how hard you work and can say with certainty that you have earned it, but to do so would be fiscally irresponsible by us to do that,” she said. “And it's not a matter of us not wanting to compensate you fairly, and Lord knows these last two years have probably been the most challenging of your career.”

According to district data, when factoring in the recruitment and retention stipends, hourly workers will see a 12% salary increase on average while instructional paraprofessionals and teachers will see 11.1% and 3.9% average increases, respectively. Executive leadership will see the smallest percent increase at about 2.6%.

Chief Financial Officer Karen Smith said as local property tax revenue increases with growing property values, the state decreases its amount of financial support for districts. Other factors influencing the budget included student enrollment, stimulus funding and ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic such as recruitment and retention challenges, supply chain issues and inflation.

Smith called the 2022-23 plans a “transition budget” and urged the community to ask state legislators for an increase in the base allotment and to consider inflation.

Danielle Cockrell, a teacher in the district, spoke at the June 13 meeting, saying teachers sacrifice their personal time grading and planning on nights and weekends as well as their personal funds to ensure student success. She asked for the board to consider raises that keep up with inflation.

“As teachers, we worked hard to grow students who have deficiencies due to COVID and high absenteeism to the detriment of both our health—mental and physical—and also our families and work life,” she said.

The starting salary for CFISD teachers will increase to $60,500 in 2022-23, up from $58,500 in 2021-22. Smith said this move along with across-the-board 2% raises will cost the district about $18.2 million. The cost of the stipends—half of which will be distributed at the end of the fall semester and the other half at the end of the spring semester—will be about $22.7 million.

According to Smith, neighboring districts of Klein, Tomball and Katy ISDs are CFISD’s main competitors when it comes to staff recruitment. These districts have planned for starting teacher salaries of $60,000, $57,500 and $60,700, respectively.

Nikki Cowart, president of the local teacher’s union chapter Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers, said she believes while CFISD has satisfactory starting salaries, more experienced teachers have been neglected.

“While we can appreciate being physically mindful of the fund balance, we also must truly account for the current staff vacancies we have endured over the last two years and continue to battle. We know that there are over 20 school districts in Harris County alone, and we’re all vying for the same workforce,” she said.

Henry noted at the June 9 board work session that following preliminary budget discussions in May, district leadership met with campus principals to hear feedback about their top priorities.

One suggestion that resulted from those discussions was the hiring of a behavioral interventionist or testing coordinator for each elementary and middle school campus based on each school’s needs.

According to Smith, it will cost the district about $6 million to fill these new roles, which are designed to help with discipline issues and reduce the workload of school counselors. Board members also agreed to allocate $400,000 to hire six additional district police officers.

Substitute teachers will see a nearly 20% pay increase from $92 per day to $110 per day, for a total cost of $4.2 million. Another $15 million was set aside to hire additional teachers and paraprofessionals to accommodate for district growth.

See the final budget presentation from the June 13 meeting here.