The Conroe ISD board of trustees received the preliminary 2022-23 budget, which includes salary increases and a potential tax rate decrease, at its Aug. 2 meeting. The budget and tax rate will be up for approval at the Aug. 16 regular board meeting.

CISD Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice said the budget objectives for FY 2022-23 include meeting the needs for the school year, opening Gordon-Reed Elementary School and providing a competitive compensation plan that accounts for inflation.

The district’s expenditure budget is determined by enrollment, but the revenue it receives from the state is determined by its average daily attendance. Rice said that over the last 10 years, enrollment has steadily increased with the exception of the 2020-21 school year.

“We had a little dip because of COVID[-19]. ... However, in 2021-22, we rebounded with 3,200 students,” Rice said.

The district is anticipating 1,750 new students this school year, which will increase the state’s funding to the district, he said.

"We are truly funded on student enrollment in the truest sense; it's like a zero-base budget. If we had no [new] students, we would get no [new] funding," Superintendent Curtis Null said.

Property values in the district are estimated to rise from $43.1 billion to $52.5 billion, but Rice said this increase does not mean the district’s net revenue increases.

“There is this misconception by some that with growing property values, the district will have a windfall of money in our operating budget, and that is just not true,” Rice said. “The increased property value benefits the state, not the district. ... The only increase in our revenue this year is based off of new students coming into the classroom."

As property value goes up, the state reduces district funding dollar for dollar, he said. The district’s total state entitlement stays at $576 million no matter the value change, he said.

“The only change is the portion that the state pays versus what our local taxpayers have to pay,” Rice said.

The projected 2022-23 tax rate is set at $1.1146 per $100 assessment which is a $0.0614 decrease from 2021-22.

Under the proposed budget, teachers and librarians in the district will receive a $1,500 pay increase, and all other employees will receive a 2% increase, Rice said. The minimum hourly rate was increased to $13 per hour, and newly hired teacher salaries will start at $60,000.

Student-teacher ratios will also see a shift in the new budget, Rice said. Prekindergarten ratios will change from 22:1 to 19:1, and ratios for grades five and six will change from 26:1 and 25:1. The district will add 195 new positions to accommodate these changes as well as the increase in enrollment, he said.

Both overall estimated revenue and expenditure is $619.83 million.

“This is a balanced budget,” Rice said. “Over last year, this is a 3.98% increase in our budget.”

On Aug. 5, the tax rate and local assessed values will be finalized. At its meeting Aug. 16, the board will hold a public hearing and vote to approve or reject the budget.