Rising property values help reduce tax rates for local school districts in The Woodlands area

Budgets for Conroe, Tomball and Magnolia ISDs are set for the 2021-22 fiscal year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Budgets for Conroe, Tomball and Magnolia ISDs are set for the 2021-22 fiscal year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Budgets for Conroe, Tomball and Magnolia ISDs are set for the 2021-22 fiscal year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Increases in the property tax base in The Woodlands area mean tax rates are not expected to increase in Conroe, Tomball or Magnolia ISDs in fiscal year 2021-22, according to their approved budgets. In all three districts, taxable property values are up more than 5% from FY 2020-21.

Revenues and expenditures in the districts are also higher in FY 2021-22 than they were in FY 2020-21. Payroll takes up the largest portion of all three FY 2021-22 budgets.

Conroe ISD

The Conroe ISD board of trustees unanimously approved its FY 2021-22 tax rate, a 3% decrease from the district’s FY 2020-21 rate, at its regular meeting Aug. 17.

The adopted rate of $1.176 per $100 assessment includes $0.9160 for maintenance and operations and $0.26 for debt service.

Certified property values for FY 2021-22 are expected to reach $42.12 billion, a 7.46% increase from the previous year, according to district officials.

That means despite a decrease in the tax rate, property taxes will support the district’s budgeted $596.12 million in general fund spending also approved during the Aug. 17 meeting.

According to the presentation, the district’s estimated total revenue is about $586.12 million. The $10 million difference between revenue and expenditures is made up by COVID-19 relief funding from FY 2020-21 to balance the budget, according to district officials.

CISD is eligible for roughly $100.03 million in additional state funding, according to district officials. The first round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds was authorized in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in March 2020, and must be used by the district by September 2022, according to CISD officials.

The district also received $34 million in CARES Act federal funds in late 2020 when Montgomery County opted to direct a total of $300 per student in the district for COVID-19-related relief.

When formulating the budget, CISD Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice said the district considered the possibility of decreased revenue if daily attendance falls due to COVID-19 cases. The budget includes $12.5 million in ESSER III funding, which can be used through 2024, to offset attendance declines.

“Hopefully we’re at the 94% [attendance] range where we planned on [in] the budget,” Rice said. “We have a little security net in our ESSER III money earmarked.”

In a presentation to the board of trustees, Rice said the budget meets the needs for the 2021-22 school year. This includes providing a competitive compensation plan, continuing to meet needs outlined in House Bill 3 Reading Academy and Teacher Incentive Allotment and maintaining a safe environment for students and staff.

The HB 3 Reading Academy requires all kindergarten through third grade teachers and principals to begin Texas Reading Academies training before the 2022-23 school year to increase teacher knowledge and improve student literacy. Along with the reading academy, additional HB 3 components were calculated in the budget, such as the recapture program which helps to subsidize property-poor districts.

All district employees will receive a 3% raise in the 2021-22 year, but bus drivers will receive a 5% raise. The minimum salary in the district will be $12 per hour, and the new teacher starting salary will be $58,500, Rice said. The cost of the raises is $12.5 million.

Rice said CISD will fund 78 new positions within the district in the next school year. Payroll will take up 89.7% of the FY 2021-22 budget, according to the presentation.

Tomball ISD

Areas served by Tomball ISD will also see lower tax rates.

With property values increasing, TISD is anticipating lowering its property tax rate by $0.04 for FY 2021-22, which began June 1.

Taxable value estimates for the upcoming year indicate the district will see its tax base grow 9%, which is greater than the 6% growth previously anticipated, Chief Financial Officer Jim Ross said.

He previously projected in April the tax rate would remain the same, but presented the board with an updated tax rate of $1.25 per $100 valuation for FY 2021-22 in May, a decrease from $1.29 in FY 2020-21.

The board also approved a 2% general pay increase for employees next year.

Magnolia ISD

The MISD board of trustees unanimously approved a $121.6 million budget for FY 2021-22 at its meeting Aug. 23. The board also approved a property tax rate of $1.1872 per $100 valuation, a $0.0872 decrease from the ongoing fiscal year.

“We’re excited to have a balanced budget pass that has the largest one-time decrease in the tax rate,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations Erich Morris said.

The decrease in the tax rate will result in homeowners paying less in taxes even as the average taxable value has increased, he said.

The budget—a $1.5 million increase from the FY 2020-21 budget—includes a 2% raise for all employees and two one-time $1,000 bonuses. The budget also includes funding for 38 additional positions being paid for by ESSER funds, Morris said.

A total of 85% in the 2021-22 budget is allocated for payroll and salaries, Morris said. The 2% raise will cost the district $1.8 million with $800,000 funded by ESSER, according to a budget presentation. Morris said the two one-time bonuses are also being funded through ESSER.

Anna Lotz and Chandler France contributed to this report.

By Ally Bolender

Reporter, The Woodlands

Ally joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Texas State University. Ally covers education, local government, transportation, business, and real estate development in The Woodlands. Prior to CI, Ally served as news content manager of KTSW FM-89.9 in San Marcos, Texas.


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