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No more price hikes: Tarrant County child care centers react to new property tax relief

Felicia Davis, owner of Ready Set Jump Learning Center in Fort Worth, sits at her desk June 18, 2024. Ready Set Jump is set to receive a full exemption from paying property taxes on its tax bill next year, after a recent vote by the Fort Worth City Council.
Matthew Sgroi
Fort Worth Report
Felicia Davis, owner of Ready Set Jump Learning Center in Fort Worth, sits at her desk June 18, 2024. Ready Set Jump is set to receive a full exemption from paying property taxes on its tax bill next year, after a recent vote by the Fort Worth City Council.

Felicia Davis had no choice but to raise prices at her child care facility.

With inflation and the cost of living across Tarrant County on the rise, staff at Ready Set Jump Learning Center in east Fort Worth expected yearly wage increases. Ultimately, Davis did what was necessary to keep her employees happy. It’s difficult to find quality child care specialists, she said, and she needed her team to stay put.

“Who can watch a child, teach a kid — educate them — knowing that their lights are about to be cut off themselves,” Davis said.

Now, as Fort Worth and Tarrant County both move to implement property tax exemptions for qualifying child care facilities under Senate Bill 1145, centers like Ready Set Jump stand on the brink of financial relief. To Davis, it offers the possibility of giving staff raises without being forced to raise prices for the families she serves

“Having that money is going to help me be able to move forward with everything we had planned … without any extra costs to our families,” Davis said.

Located adjacent to an empty patch of grass and a single-family home, the child care facility is clad in weathered wood painted over by a colorful mural of a hilly, sunny landscape. Inside, laminate flooring is covered with a variety of rugs and carpets.

Davis is the sole owner of the building, at 7200 John T White Road, and will soon be completely exempt from paying property taxes on her facility. On May 14, the Fort Worth City Council approved a 100% property tax exemption for eligible child care providers.

For a property to qualify, it must be used exclusively to provide developmental and educational services. For example, if a property owner leases to a child care provider, the exemption would apply only to the portion of the property used for child care — dual exemptions with residential homesteads are not permitted.

Also, the qualifying child care facilities must participate in the Texas Rising Star program, the state’s quality rating and improvement system for child care facilities, and ensure that at least 20% of their enrolled children receive subsidized care.

Such an exemption will enable Davis to reinvest in her program, she said — specifically to enrich educational experiences outside the classroom.

“Most of our children don’t leave their immediate neighborhoods. They don’t see life beyond their daily surroundings,” Davis said.

Savings from the tax exemption could fund more frequent field trips and improved learning materials, allowing children to “see a real elephant, visit farms and go to museums,” she said.

Currently, the center absorbs the costs of these excursions, not wanting to burden parents who are already struggling financially. The center caters primarily to low-income families, many of whom rely on subsidies to afford child care, Davis said.

“We pay 90%, or more, of each field trip’s expenses,” Davis said. With the exemption, she plans to initiate year-round trips and even add a new van to their fleet, ensuring that logistical and mechanical challenges don’t limit these experiences.

Beyond field trips, Davis also dreams of upgrading the center’s physical and academic resources, purchasing different curricula and reading assessments that could encourage parent involvement.

“We want better playground equipment and to bring in special programs that can make learning exciting and tangible for the kids,” she said. “Still, without charging families extra.”

Eligible facilities in Fort Worth will see an average savings of $3,641 in their yearly tax bill, according to city estimates.

Meanwhile, just outside Fort Worth’s city limits, child care providers in Tarrant County felt overlooked until recently.

On June 18, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court voted to provide a 50% exemption for qualifying child care facilities across the county.

While the new exemption earned cheers from providers, some, including Gloria Simmons, director of Pollywog Early Learning Academy in Fort Worth, continue to advocate for a 100% exemption for her peers.

“It would show child care businesses and low-income families that Tarrant County cares about improving access to high-quality, affordable child care,” she said.

With a 50% exemption, facilities will save an average of $1,820 on their yearly tax bill.

While Brad Stum, general counsel for Lil’ Raskals Child Care and Learning Center in Lake Worth, would love for the facility to be fully exempt from paying property taxes, the business will take whatever it can get, he said.

“Anything that we save on property taxes we want to reinvest in our center … to benefit the children in our care, which is the purpose of why we’re open,” Stum said.

Lil’ Raskals already places a large emphasis on academics, he said, and the facility now plans to enhance curriculum and academic opportunities. Stum also hopes to update some of the facility’s older equipment.

With a 100% exemption, the facility could give staff formal raises, Stum said.

“I do believe that educators should receive more money for what they do. Without our teachers, we wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open,” Stum said.

He said the center’s staff deserve more and that he will continue to push for a full property tax exemption next year, when the issue is expected to come back before the commissioners court. For now, he still isn’t ruling out some reward to Lil’ Raskals’ staff.

“If there is any funding left over (after purchasing added curricula), we would be more than happy to share that with our staff for their hard work,” Stum said.

Continued support of facilities such as Ready Set Jump and Lil’ Raskals is necessary, Kara Waddell, president and CEO of Child Care Associates, said during a Fort Worth City Council meeting in April.

“I think we recognize more and more that child care is an economic development issue, it is a workforce development issue, it is an education issue, it is an issue for everybody,” Waddell said.

Out of the estimated 338 child care locations in Fort Worth, 54, or nearly 16%, meet the requirements and do not already possess other forms of exemptions, according to city officials.

Including those 54 locations in Fort Worth, roughly 145 providers across Tarrant County will be eligible for some form of tax exemption.

For many of those facilities, the impact is clear.

This year, Davis will keep prices exactly where they are.

Matthew Sgroi is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or @MatthewSgroi1. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.