Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley practically had to drag it out of them, but Tarrant County College board members finally offered guidance on whether to include faculty-staff salary increases in the budget being developed for 2012-13: The consensus expressed at a recent budget workshop was 2 to 3 percent, though an employee committee had recommended 5 percent.But paying for raises could mean hiking tuition or taxes again, or saying no to items that campus presidents have requested.The choices aren't pleasant, but trustees need to hear from their constituents soon about what they're willing to accept.It's a stretch for TCC officials to say at this time that raising either tuition or the tax rate is essential, especially after trustees did both just last year.Tuition for county residents went up $2 per credit hour to $52 in the spring (Dallas County residents pay $45 per credit hour at Dallas County Community College campuses). The effective tax rate for 2011-12 went up a little more than a penny over the previous year, to 14.897 cents per $100 of assessed property value.While most of the district's revenue, including state funding, is expected to remain flat without board action, property tax collections are projected to go up. The preliminary net taxable value is $127.8 billion, a 2.6 percent increase from 2011. If the tax rate remained the same, the district would take in an extra $2.5 million because of the rising property values, officials said at the workshop July 5.But that money wouldn't cover requests for additional spending.For instance, campus presidents have asked for about $12 million for new equipment, operating costs, and extra faculty and staff, Hadley said. Is this critical?Raises for faculty and staff would cost about $1.7 million for every 1 percent increase. Can we really afford this?Interestingly enough, an extra penny on the tax rate would generate about $12 million, the district's finance staff said. And a $2 tuition hike, which could be assessed only for the spring 2013 semester, would produce $1.7 million.How coincidental is that?During the presentation (video: bit.ly/P3kKBX), there was no discussion about belt-tightening, budget scrubbing or austerity measures, though officials said the base budget -- which left expenses such as salaries and benefits the same as last year -- did not incorporate any money for capital expenditures.Hadley will make budget recommendations in August, and trustees will have to decide what they're willing to ask taxpayers and students to pay for.Board President Bill Greenhill pretty much nixed the notion of moving forward this year with two big projects that have been under consideration: a proposed aviation center to train aircraft mechanics, pilots and aerospace engineers; and a performing arts center at the Northeast Campus. It's wise for the board to put off diverting resources to those projects until the costs are definitive and it's clear that they should come before other priorities.The district is working with consultants to determine how to best coordinate facilities investments with students' academic needs. That's a valuable endeavor, but it isn't completed. The consultants predict that the current enrollment of 50,000 credit students will more than double by 2020, based on Tarrant County's population growth. TCC also provides adult education and worker training for area businesses.Given the district's history of rushing budgets through, it's good to see trustees and administrators publicly deliberating over financial realities. In light of last year's tuition and tax hikes, trustees should be cautious about approving additional increases without listening carefully to constituents and making sure the expenditures are warranted.