For the first time in 25 years, Tarrant County voters will be asked to approve new taxpayer-backed debt for their local community college district.
Tarrant County College trustees agreed in August to place an $825 million bond election on the November 2019 ballot. If voters pass the bond proposition, the debt will have to be repaid with interest using local property taxes.
The district currently has no outstanding bond debt. All bonds were completely paid off in February 2015, according to the district’s financial reports.
District officials say the new bond would not increase TCC’s property tax rate, set at $0.13 per $100 valuation for 2019 (about $280 for the average Tarrant County homeowner). But residents’ property tax bills will increase unless officials lower future tax rates to offset rising property values.
The tax rate is divided into two portions: one to fund maintenance and operating expenses (M&O) and one to repay debt and interest (I&S). Because the district has no debt, its current I&S tax rate is zero. If the district’s overall tax rate stays the same, increasing the I&S portion to service new debt means lowering the M&O rate—potentially cutting the amount collected to spend on TCC’s operations, unless tax revenues continue to be buoyed by rising property values.
Property taxes are budgeted to bring in over $230 million in revenue to the district for 2019-2020. According to TCC’s 2018 financial report, annual property tax receipts have gone up about 25 percent over the past five years and now account for over half the district’s total revenue:
“State appropriations accounted for 35 percent of total (operating and non-operating) revenue in fiscal 1998, and have declined to 18.1 percent of revenue in 2018. Tuition and fees accounted for 22.9 percent in fiscal 1998 and 12.1 percent in fiscal 2018. In contrast, local property taxes accounted for 21.0 percent of total revenue in fiscal 1998 and 51.0 percent of revenue in 2018.”
As of Fall 2017, TCC had about 53,000 students, 3,000 full-time faculty and employees, and 1,300 adjunct faculty across six campuses and other off-campus facilities.
Projects funded by the proposed bond package would include renovations at all six campuses:
- Districtwide infrastructure: $202 million
- Districtwide improvements: $190 million
- Northwest campus redevelopment: $308 million
- Southeast campus renovation: $125 million
District officials say if voters approve the bond, the TCC board will hire an outside project management firm to ensure the projects are built on budget and on time. The district is hosting community presentations on its bond proposal October 7 and 9.
Tarrant County voters who live within the Arlington school district will also decide on a $966 million bond debt package on their November ballot.
Early voting in the November 5 election runs from October 21 through November 1. All five main Tarrant County College campuses will host early voting locations.