Tarrant County officials applaud voter-approved tax relief for child care centers

Local child care providers and early childhood experts are celebrating the voter-approved passage of Proposition 2, which allows local governments in Texas to provide property tax exemptions to certain child care facilities. The constitutional amendment — one of 14 amendments that voters considered on Tuesday — could set the stage for future policies that impact a sector struggling to find stable financial ground.

Results from Tuesday’s election showed that almost 65% of Texas voters were in favor of Proposition 2, according to unofficial numbers from the Texas Secretary of State that will be certified in one to two weeks. In Tarrant County, the percentage of voters who supported it was slightly higher at almost 67% while the county’s voter turnout for the amendment was about 12%.

Now, it’s up to city and county leaders to determine whether a local policy will be implemented that would provide property-tax relief of at least 50% for eligible providers. Those providers — estimated to be almost 145 across Tarrant — must be part of Texas Rising Star, the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childhood programs, and have at least 20% of their enrolled children receiving subsidized services through the Texas Workforce Commission.

The amendment impacting both property owners and renters comes against the backdrop of providers losing federal relief money they had received amid COVID-19 that helped keep their businesses open. American Rescue Plan stabilization funds were the largest federal investment in child care in U.S. history at $24 billion, while additional money was provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The funds expired on Sept. 30, and the Texas Workforce Commission approved an additional $1 billion toward the sector that expires at the end of the month.

“The passage of Proposition 2 is a clear demonstration that voters believe access to stable, quality child care is a priority. This was an important first step towards investing back into our quality child care programs who have committed to serving our community’s highest-need families, and we hope to work with our local officials towards making this a reality for the nearly 145 eligible providers here in Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” said Catherine Davis, director of policy for Child Care Associates, one of the largest child development programs in North Texas.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker has asked city staff to start the process of bringing the exemption before the city council “in the coming months,” she said Wednesday.

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of voters, we have the opportunity to provide tax relief that could impact nearly 70 child care providers serving approximately 5,500 children in Fort Worth. Quality, affordable and accessible child care is vital for the success of a community. I am supportive of pursuing this effort in Fort Worth to support our child care businesses and the families they serve,” Parker said.

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare did not respond to requests for comment regarding Proposition 2.

Retha Wilson, who’s owned and directed Like My Own Childcare center for 30 years in the Morningside neighborhood, said she plans to use the additional money in her budget for a raise or bonus to her early educators, if city officials pass a local policy.

“If it’s happening, that will be great,” Wilson said on Wednesday.

David Feigen, the director of early learning policy at Texans Care for Children, said in a statement that the proposition’s passage indicates that voters believe the sector needs more support.

“We urge our state leaders to listen to the voters, build on this important step forward, and make child care a priority during the next legislative session,” he said.

Davis, of Child Care Associates, emphasized this point that the amendment is not a silver bullet solution and more action is needed to address the broken system of child care.

“We hope that the passage of Proposition 2 generates needed momentum to finally right-size child care on behalf of young children, working families and early educators in Texas,” Davis said.