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Tarrant County approves property tax exemption for child care facilities. Providers push for more

Four people sit behind a bench while an audience looks on.
Matthew Sgroi
Fort Worth Report
Tarrant County commissioners sit on the dais during a commissioners court meeting on June 18, 2024.

Since mid-May, owners of child care facilities located just outside Fort Worth city limits felt left out.

Their counterparts a few miles over the city limits were set to look forward to a property tax exemption of 100% of the appraised value of properties after the Fort Worth City Council voted 10-0, with council member Chris Nettles abstaining, to adopt the exemption.

Since the passage of Senate Bill 1145 and the subsequent statewide approval in November of Texas Proposition 2, which provides cities and counties in Texas the option to offer these exemptions, smaller cities bordering Fort Worth were yet to bring the issue to City Council.

On June 18, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court took the matter into the county’s hands, as county commissioners discussed and voted unanimously to provide a 50% exemption for qualifying child care facilities throughout the county. While Tarrant County providers were happy to be included, some are still hoping for more action.

Before officials voted, Gloria Simmons, the owner and director of Pollywog Early Learning Academy in Fort Worth, urged commissioners to consider adopting exemptions at 100%. Since Fort Worth did, Simmons will be able to purchase uniforms for her students. The children she serves often come to the center with the same clothes they had on the day before, she said.

Her fellow providers need “some breathing room,” Simmons said.

“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.

An exemption of 50% of the appraised value of child care properties aims to alleviate the financial burdens faced by providers. At a 50% exemption across Fort Worth, facilities could see a $1,820 decrease in their yearly tax bill, on average.

The measure is estimated to save providers up to $200,000 collectively, according to Tarrant County data.

Commissioner Roy Brooks emphasized the urgency of addressing the rising costs of child care, which he said had increased faster than inflation, placing significant strain on working families.

“It is a tremendous burden on families with one child … not to mention those with two or more,” Brooks said. “Child care expenses have become almost as costly as a college education. Our families need relief.”

The exemption applies only to properties used exclusively for child care and requires participation in the Texas Rising Star program, the state’s quality rating system for child care facilities. Additionally, at least 20% of the children enrolled in the facility must receive subsidized care.

Leah Stanley, owner of Nannies of America at Home, an in-home child care provider based in Grand Prairie, doesn’t qualify for the property exemption. Since the provider doesn’t operate on property it owns, there’s nothing to exempt the provider from.

Stanley encouraged commissioners to explore ways to support businesses like hers, too.

“We, too, are in desperate need of financial relief,” Stanley said.

Other concerns surround the importance of ensuring that property owners who lease to child care providers pass the tax savings to their tenants.

While an affidavit process will be required to verify that savings are transferred, either through reducing rent or utility costs, Commissioner Manny Ramirez emphasized the need for ongoing oversight.

“One of the major concerns that I had is that it doesn’t just become a tax break for landlords,” Ramirez, who supported the measure, said. “The intended beneficiaries are those working-class parents that need those programs and those providers. … I’m going to be watching it like a hawk.”

Tracy Davis, co-owner of Imagine Nation Learning Centers, owns Tarrant County locations in Arlington and Mansfield and is confident that the tax relief will make a difference.

Now, she can invest in better facilities and programs for the children she serves, she said. Like Simmons, Davis urged commissioners to adopt a 100% exemption for qualifying providers.

“We need more sensory opportunities for these children to enjoy the outdoors for more than just three months of the year,” Davis said. “It’s so hot outside.”

Commissioners will consider the possibility of approving the other 50% of the exemption next year, Brooks said.

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.