Rising property values help reduce tax rates for Conroe, Tomball and Magnolia ISDs

School districts grappled this summer with formulating budgets amid uncertainty relating to the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges they face every year coping with rising costs and recurring needs.

However, increases in the tax base mean tax rates are not expected to increase in Conroe, Tomball or Magnolia ISDs in fiscal year 2020-21, according to their proposed budgets.

Conroe ISD

CISD’s FY 2020-21 budget was approved in a 7-0 vote Aug. 18 and calls for $576.99 million in spending from the district’s general operating funds. The majority of the budget—just under $506 million—is dedicated to payroll, according to district officials. The budget includes 3% cost-of-living raises for teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors. The district expects to collect $582.46 million in revenue.“We are in strong financial shape to address the challenges ahead with COVID-19, the start of school and then the upcoming legislative session,” Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice said.

During a public hearing on the budget prior to the regular board session, Rice said the district is planning for more than $19 million in new spending or revenue shortfalls from the pandemic this year. Rice said that includes more than $6 million to buy new remote learning technology and personal protective and sanitation equipment as well as for additional custodial and health care staff hires. An estimated $5 million covers employee leave and absences related to COVID-19. More than $7 million in lost revenue will also contribute to the pandemic’s financial effects, Rice said.While the district unanimously passed its budget, the district’s FY 2020-21 tax rate was set to be approved at the board’s Sept. 15 regular meeting. The proposed tax rate of $1.2125 per $100 property valuation represents a 1.42% decrease from CISD’s FY 2019-20 rate, although Rice said the district’s certified property values rose 5.71% over last year.

During the board’s Aug. 18 meeting, trustees also unanimously approved a one-time $160,000 purchase of the Proctorio testing security program.CISD Purchasing Director Rick Reeves said the tools will be used for remote high school students in the district this year.

“It provides a great deal of security for our remote users to kind of level the playing field between the remote users and the kids who are on campus with a teacher in front of them,” CISD Director of Information Systems Teri Ross said.

Tomball and Magnolia ISDs

The TISD fiscal year began July 1, and the board of trustees unanimously approved the district’s FY 2020-21 budget in June.

The budget totals $157.7 million in general fund expenditures, an 8.24% increase over the previous year, according to information presented during the June 8 board workshop.

The tax base increased by 6.9% in 2020, according to the district.

The budget includes a general pay increase of 2% and staffing costs associated with the opening of Grand Oaks Elementary School in August as well as no increase in the district’s property tax rate of $1.29 per $100 valuation, CFO Jim Ross said.

In MISD, FY 2020-21 begins Oct. 1. Erich Morris, MISD assistant superintendent of operations, said projected general fund revenue for FY 2020-21 will be $119.35 million, up from $119.29 million in FY 2019-20.

“We are very conservative with our revenue estimates, so we have some wiggle room on the revenue side of things,” he said.

The coronavirus created new costs as well, Morris said in a July 23 email.

“The heaviest new financial burden lies with online instruction/learning costs, particularly in terms of those items which are critically important for our students to be able to access online instruction,” he said.

The proposed FY 2020-21 tax rate is $1.2725 per $100 valuation, Morris said, a decrease from $1.3095 per $100 valuation in FY 2019-20.

The budget includes a 2% pay increase and $500 retention bonus for employees, Morris said.

The budget was approved Aug. 24.

Dylan Sherman contributed to this report.

By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.
By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball | Magnolia & Conroe | Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball|Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.


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