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City Council appears ready to support 100% property tax exemption for child care centers

District 9 Councilman John Courage during a city council public comment session.
Josh Peck
District 9 Councilman John Courage during a city council public comment session.

The majority of the San Antonio City Council appeared ready to support a 100% property tax exemption for eligible child care facilities during a council briefing on Wednesday.

Cities and counties now have the authority to offer between 50% and 100% property tax exemptions to certain child care centers after the legislature passed a constitutional amendment in the last legislative session that Texas voters then approved in November.

Child care facilities must be licensed, have at least 20% of the children they serve receiving subsidized services, and participate in the Texas Workforce Commission’s Texas Rising Star Program to be eligible for the exemptions.

The Texas Rising Star Program is a statewide program that evaluates the quality of child care facilities.

Out of 714 licensed facilities in San Antonio, an estimated 76 facilities at most are currently eligible, according to city staff. City departments and the United Way of Bexar County and San Antonio are working to help more facilities become eligible.

Child care facilities that are eligible have a deadline of May 15 to apply for the exemption with the Bexar County Appraisal District, but they will not receive it until the council approves it.

District 9 Councilman John Courage said he began the process of passing a city council consideration request (CCR) in February to make sure child care centers had access to the tax exemption before realizing it would need to happen faster so that child care facilities could apply by the May 15 deadline.

“I asked council members to sign a CCR and several of you did, but when I started talking to the city manager about presenting it, we realized it would probably even delay the action,” Courage said. “And with the timeline we were facing and the direction the city manager was going in, it seemed to make a lot more sense just to go ahead and bring it forward.”

District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda at a city council
Josh Peck
District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda at a city council public comment session.

District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello-Havrda said she supported the exemption. But she was concerned the benefits would not end up trickling down to families.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” she said. “I had the same question that Councilwoman [Marina] Alderete Gavito had about how we’re tracking, or if there’s a requirement, to pass that savings onto the working family.”

City Attorney Andy Segovia said the city was restricted by what the state constitutional amendment specifically allowed, and that requiring child care facilities to lower costs for families was not part of that.

Courage said he understood some council members concerns over the limitations of the tax exemption, but that it shouldn’t be the last step the city council takes on the issue.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and that’s what we’re talking about today, a first step,” he said. “I think what’s been suggested is we have some kind of a child care development commission to really look at this from a lot of different angles, but also I think this needs to go on our state legislative agenda for 2025 as one of the maximum efforts we can push for expanding state child care support.”

The Bexar County Commissioners Court passed the exemption last week.

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