Austin is one of the most expensive places for child care. Here’s what’s being done about it

Austin Council Member Vanessa Fuentes helped lead zoning changes to make it easier for child care facilities to open and operate.

AUSTIN, Texas — According to studies done in the past year, Travis County is the most expensive spots for child care in the state. New tax breaks from both the city of Austin and the county could help child care facility owners and parents find some relief.

Years-long waits and costs in the tens of thousands: It’s the reality parents and guardians face trying to find child care in Central Texas.

“A lot of times you’ll get on a waitlist for like three or four of your favorite schools and hope that one of them is available in the next year, year-and-a-half,” said Anthony Carrillo, founder of the Mockingbird MicroSchool.

Carrillo and his wife got tired of waiting, so they opened their own child care facility in South Austin to help others.

“Anybody who’s moved to Austin or who’s new to Austin, maybe new parents, everybody really struggles with trying to find quality child care. That’s how we started. My wife and I didn’t come from an early childhood education background at all,” said Carrillo.

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Both the city of Austin and Travis County approved 100% property tax exemptions for child care centers as a result of Texas Prop 2, which voters approved in November. Those tax breaks will be crucial to owners like Carrillo.

“That’s going to be huge. That would help us hire another teacher. That would help us provide better quality options. That would help us provide more facility amenities to the students,” said Carrillo.

It’s not the only advancement happening in the local child care space. Austin Council Member Vanessa Fuentes helped lead zoning changes to make it easier for child care facilities to open and operate.

“What we found was that it was really difficult to actually build a child care facility in the city. It’s actually easier to build a dog park than it is to open a child care center,” said Fuentes.

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She said the council is also addressing other avenues like waitlists and teacher pay at the Texas Workforce Solutions Board.

“Right now we have over 1,000 kids on this waitlist looking for subsidized child care, and so that’s going to be step one. No. 2 is making sure that our early childhood educators are well paid,” said Fuentes.

With all these changes, Carrillo said it marks a new era for child care and access.

“It’s going to enable the career educator who maybe has always wanted to open up their own school. It’s going to enable that person to open up a lot more quickly and easily than maybe it was possible before,” said Carrillo.

As far as where the city will get the money to make up for the loss in property tax revenue, Fuentes said that will come up when budget talks come around. She also said with all of the new commercial properties popping up, that will help offset the cost that comes along with the exemptions.

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