Tarrant County College District Raises Property Taxes and Budget Expenses Despite Lower Enrollment

Property owners in the Tarrant County College District (TCCD) will pay more in property taxes this year.

The board of TCCD voted to maintain last year’s tax rate of about $0.13 per $100 valuation. However, because appraisal values ​​have increased, the average homeowner will pay $37.44 more than last year.

The total tax levy will increase by $26 million.

Shannon Wood, who represents District 2 consisting of much of northeastern Tarrant County on TCCD, was the only board member to vote against both the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget as well as the proposed tax increase.

She pointed to the 40-year-high inflation rate as one of the reasons. “We are asking people who are already struggling to pay more,” she said during the August 18 voteadding that middle, low and fixed-income residents would feel the impact even more.

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TCCD lowered its operations and maintenance tax rate by over a penny, but increased the district’s interest and sinking rate, which services the district’s debt, by $0.01.

In 2019, voters approved an $825 million bond package “for the purpose of constructing, improving, and renovating” buildings.

TCCD Chief Operating Officer Susan Alanis said the board pledged to voters in 2019 that it would maintain the overall tax rate while repaying the debt. This summer the district sold $400 million in bonds, she noted.

Costs for projects that were initially part of the bond package have increased by over 25 percent, Alanis told the board, so TCCD is transferring $24 million from the maintenance and operations fund into the pay-as-you-go capital fund to help make up the cost differences.

Over a dozen residents spoke in opposition to the tax increase at the required public hearing on September 15, often pointing out that families “tighten their belts” during hard times.

Some speakers noted that student enrollment at TCCD is down and has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to TCCD, 43,725 students were enrolled in fall 2019 compared to just 34,327 this fall.

Resident Larry McFarland asked the board why the district did not consider a tuition rate increase. Dallas County’s community college district charges $79 per credit hour while TCCD charges $64.

“Those who use the service should pay for the service,” he said.

Others posed questions about cost savings while TCCD campuses were closed for almost 18 months during the pandemic, as well as funding grants the district received as part of the COVID-19 relief packages disbursed by the federal government.

Wood is also concerned about ongoing expenses TCCD will now bear after using federal funds to buy new equipment. For instance, she told The Texan that the district bought 2,090 tablets for students to use and now has to find a way to pay for the wireless services for those tablets.

“Why can’t we charge students to use the technology?” Wood possessed. “This is just one example of spending that it is not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for.”

Before the final vote on September 15 — a meeting Wood was unable to attend due to illness — District 7 board member Kenneth Barr said he believes TCCD does a lot to “build the workforce” in Fort Worth and “the thought that a nickel or dime a day and that cutting the tax rate is more important than educating these people” is “very offensive.”

The tax rate passed unanimously.

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