The Conroe ISD board of trustees approved the district's $619.83 million budget and tax rate of $1.1146 per $100 assessment for 2022-23 at its regular meeting on Aug. 16.

The budget, passed unanimously, is driven in part by salary increases and the addition of new positions. According to information at the meeting, all employees will receive a 2% salary increase, and teachers and librarians will receive a $1,500 salary increase. The district budgeted to add 163 total new teaching positions, which is expected to cost $11.41 million. The additional personnel will be used to lower student/teacher ratios for some grades, according to information from the district. For pre-kindergarten, the student-to-teacher ratio will decrease from 22:1 to 19:1 at a cost of $1 million in additional teaching staff, said Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice. For fifth- and sixth-grades, the ratio will decrease from 26:1 to 25:1 at a cost of $600,000, Rice said.

The budget is set at $619.83 million, a 3.98% increase from the 2021-22 budget.

Rice said the budget primarily goes toward employee costs, with 89.31% going towards payroll, 5.14% for contracted services, 4.1% for supplies and materials and 1.45% for equipment and other expenses.

The 2022-23 tax rate was approved to be set at $1.1146 per $100 assessment, a $0.06 decrease from the past year.

Trustee Dale Inman said a lower tax rate would benefit taxpayers, and he said the district should use part of its $154 million in savings to lower it.

“Although we are lowering it, I think most people are experiencing an increase in dollars coming out of COVID[-19], the economy, inflation,” Inman said. “I’m just looking for something so we can tell the taxpayers, ‘We’re trying not to raise your taxes’.”

Out of the Houston Metro area school districts, CISD has the second-lowest tax rate, Rice said. In Montgomery County, CISD’s tax rate is the lowest, he said.

Inman suggested the district should look into adopting a no-new-revenue tax rate, which would place the tax rate at $0.9967 per $100 assessment.

Rice said the no-new-revenue tax rate is meant for counties and other taxing jurisdictions.

“That is their primary source of revenue ... school districts’ tax rates are based on our state funding formula,” he said. “If we were to adopt a no new tax rate ... we would get penalized through the state.”

Superintendent Curtis Null said the school district has never adopted a deficit budget, but adopting a no-new-revenue tax rate would put the budget into a deficit.

“If we use our savings account to lower the tax rate, we will be adopting a deficit budget,” Null said.

Board President Skeeter Hubert said next year the board would have to raise the tax rate again because operating on a low tax rate is “not sustainable over time."

Inman, whose position is up for election in November, is not running for re-election

“I think taxpayers want a balanced budget,” Hubert said. “I think they want their kids to be taught and are willing to pay for it. Nobody wants to pillage the taxpayer ... you are suggesting that you are looking out for taxpayers, which means the rest of us are not.”

Trustee Stacey Chase said that the board also has a responsibility to CISD employees.

“We would have also loved to give a much larger increase there, but we didn’t. We had to be fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money and still be able to competitively recruit talent for the district,” Chase said.

Trustee Theresa Wagaman said she felt it was “unacceptable” that Inman did not bring up this issue in any previous budget workshops.

“We have had multiple budget workshops to discuss this and you bring it up in the last five minutes,” she said.

Inman said he felt it was “unacceptable” that the matter had not come up for discussion previously.

The proposed tax rate passed 4-1, with Inman voting in opposition. Trustee Datren Williams was not present at the meeting.