Tomball, Magnolia ISDs eye lower tax rates, higher salaries for FY 2019-20

House Bill 3 allocates $11.6 billion to reform the way public schools are funded, including compressing the maintenance and operations tax rate, raising the per-student funding amount and mandating pay raises.

House Bill 3 allocates $11.6 billion to reform the way public schools are funded, including compressing the maintenance and operations tax rate, raising the per-student funding amount and mandating pay raises.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the most recent teacher salary increases for Magnolia ISD. 

Taxpayers within Tomball and Magnolia ISDs will see school district tax rates drop this year and teacher salaries increase as a result of state school finance reform legislation.

House Bill 3, signed June 11, allocated $11.6 billion to reform the way public school districts are funded, including raising per-student funding from $5,140 to $6,160, increasing salaries and adjusting funding allotments.

The bill also compressed the maintenance and operations tax rate, which funds general operations, resulting in lower overall tax rates.

MISD approved its $118.2 million general fund budget Aug. 19 for fiscal year 2019-20. The adopted tax rate of $1.3095 per $100 valuation is $0.07 below last year’s tax rate of $1.3795.

The TISD board of trustees approved the district’s $141.8 million general fund budget June 12 but had not adopted a tax rate as of publication Sept. 3. However, Chief Financial Officer Jim Ross said he plans to propose a $0.05 decrease in the tax rate, which would total $1.29 per $100 valuation.

“The long-term goal is to wean schools off property taxes and replace property taxes with sales tax,” said Chandra Villanueva, the Economic Opportunities Program director for the Center for Public Priorities, an independent public policy association.

HB 3 gains

An analysis of Legislative Budget Board estimates for public school districts show TISD as 11th to last for revenue per student under HB 3, receiving only $8,085 per student. Yet, this is an increase of $341 per student from previous funding formulas. MISD is estimated to receive $8,436 per student, an increase of $256 per student.

TISD anticipates a $5 million surplus in FY 2019-20 as the adopted budget did not factor in HB 3 changes, Ross said. He said the district plans to reserve surplus funds for opening a new elementary school in August.

MISD officials project a $9.1 million surplus in FY 2019-20, MISD Assistant Superintendent of Operations Erich Morris said during a July 22 budget workshop. The FY 2019-20 budget allocates $5.65 million of the surplus—including all of the additional funds received from HB 3—for employee compensation. HB 3 mandates 30% of the increased per-pupil revenue be used for salary increases.

“Every time there’s an adjustment like this, there are winners and losers,” Morris said July 22. “I do feel like we’re in a very good position, though. We have a very competitive [compensation increase] package.”

MISD teachers with five or less years of experience will receive 4.5% salary increases, and teachers with six or more years of experience will receive 5% salary increases, Morris said. In addition, teachers and staff, excluding administrators, will receive one-time bonuses in November. The district also upped its health care contributions by $50 per month for all employees.

The TISD board approved pay raises of 3% to 3.5% for all staff—instead of the 2% approved initially June 12—at a special July 24 meeting. Staff will see a 3% increase, and teachers, librarians and nurses with six or more years of experience will see a 3.5% increase, Ross said at the meeting.

“When we voted on this [budget] in June, I believe the sentiment across the entire board was based on what happened with House Bill 3; this was as good as it could get based on our analysis at the time,” TISD trustee John McStravick said during the meeting. “I’m glad that we are able to reassess that and come back and make some changes.”

HB 3 hesitations

Despite the new additional funding, district officials said they are cautious about future gains from HB 3.

“We’re cautious with our subsequent year outlook given the one-time large increase this year and understanding that there’s no subsequent year increase in basic allotment,” Morris said.

Ross said in an interview he believes TISD will be able to sustain future expenses as long as the state continues funding HB 3.

“I have not seen a [legislative] session where they increased funding so dramatically with no new funding source. … They’re entirely dependent upon the economy remaining strong in the state of Texas,” Ross said. “I’ve modeled [HB 3] out to about four years out, and it looks fine. As long as [the state] can continue to fund House Bill 3, we’ll be fine.”

Hannah Zedaker contributed to this report.
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.


Tomball ISD board members unanimously approved the decision at a Jan. 12 board meeting. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tomball ISD board approves extended sick leave for district employees for COVID-19

The approval comes after certain sick leave benefits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expired Dec. 31, 2020.

The estimated number of active COVID-19 cases in Harris County has surpassed 50,000, reaching 51,362 as of the most recent data Jan. 20, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Active cases top 50,000

See the latest trends on COVID-19 in Harris County.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
New groundwater rules set to abolish previous pumping restrictions in areas including The Woodlands

The entity that regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County adopted new rules that went into effect in September, and it will set a desired future condition, or DFC, for the local aquifer system in May.

Kairy-tate Barkley is owner and founder of French Cuff Boutique. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper
French Cuff Boutique brings personal styling to The Woodlands customers

Owner Kairy-tate Barkley said she developed the store based on her lifelong appreciation of fashion after she spent years working in the corporate world.

The Conroe ISD board of trustees met Jan. 19 for its regular monthly meeting. (Screenshot via Conroe ISD YouTube)
Conroe ISD board approves Caney Creek attendance boundary changes, 2021-22 calendar

Board members also approved spending for 20 replacement school buses and annual safety and security projects.

Courtesy Baja Sur Fresh-Mex and Tequila Bar
40 restaurants that opened in 2020 or are coming in 2021 in The Woodlands area

Restaurants that opened in The Woodlands area in 2020 include locations that offer a variety of cuisines from casual to fine dining.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about, where, when and how they can get inoculated.

The barbecue eatery is the second Killen's Restaurant Group venture to launch in The Woodlands area. (Courtesy Killen's Barbecue)
Killen's Barbecue opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Magnolia ISD board members approved additional paid sick leave and a $500 bonus payment to district employees in a Jan. 19 board meeting. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Magnolia ISD staff to receive $500 COVID-19 bonus, additional paid sick leave

Magnolia ISD employees will receive additional paid sick leave and a one-time $500 bonus due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Montgomery County continues to see new daily highs in active COVID-19 case counts as hospitalizations rise. (Community Impact staff)
Montgomery County COVID-19 total case count increases to over 34,000; active case count decreases by 1,500

The total COVID-19 case count across Montgomery County has surpassed 34,000.

Zanti offers its take on carbonara pasta. ($16) (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Zanti Cucina Italiana brings authentic Italian taste to The Woodlands area in a casual environment

After taking about 2 1/2 years to select a location and design a concept, Santiago Pelaez opened Zanti Cucina Italiana to bring authentic Italian cuisine to The Woodlands area in June 2019 on Research Forest Drive.