The Conroe ISD board of trustees held a special meeting April 4 to begin discussion of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Budget objectives for fiscal year 2023-24 include opening three new schools—Hines Elementary, Moorhead Junior High and Veterans Memorial Intermediate—as well as hiring additional educators and campus support for students and staff.

Board members discussed the potential challenges to the budget as well as the district's growth. Enrollment is expected to increase in the 2023-24 academic year by 2,600 students, and the district lacks funding to provide employee raises or retention stipends, according to a presentation at the meeting.

According to a board presentation, expenditures in FY 2023-24 are expected to increase by $48.35 million, increasing the beginning revenue budget of $623.30 million to $671.65 million.

A large portion of the increase will be due to costs for additional personnel. According to the presentation, $34.7 million will go toward hiring special education counselors, teachers and paraprofessionals; additional bus drivers; instructional coaches and staffing for two new schools.

The budget increase does not include a salary increase or teacher retention stipend, as district officials are awaiting the results of Senate Bill 9 and other legislative decisions to determine those needs, officials said.

SB 9, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, offers a salary increase of $2,000 for districts with enrollment over 20,000 and $6,000 for districts with enrollment under 20,000. According to a Community Impact report, that means every district in Montgomery County except CISD would get a $6,000 raise for teachers.

Null said if the bill is passed, and the board decides to increase salaries out of its fund balance, it would create a budget deficit.

"To be clear, we anticipate there to be a raise," CISD Superintendent Curtis Null said. "We're just still waiting on Austin to give us the money to do it."

The board also discussed CISD's existing and future tax rate. The existing tax rate is $1.11 per $100 valuation.

Since 2018-19, the tax rate has decreased by $0.1654, according to the district. The district is anticipating a further decrease of $0.0549 to bring the FY 2023-24 tax rate to $1.05 per $100 valuation, according to information at the meeting.

According to a board presentation, CISD has the second-lowest tax rate in the Greater Houston area.

The budget will be further discussed at a board workshop June 6. It will be brought for public hearing Aug. 1. The budget and tax rate will brought to the board for adoption Aug. 15.