Consider this monthly expense: One thousand three hundred twenty-four dollars and sixty-six cents.
Is that a mortgage payment? Maybe in Kansas. It could be a payment on a rather expensive car. But no, we're talking about the cost of one month of child care in Breckenridge, (infant/toddler rate for five days a week, Carriage House posted rate). Extend that out a year and a local mom and dad are looking at nearly $16,000 in child care annually, for one kid. Figure the rent at $1,200 for a two-bedroom crackerbox at another $14,400 a year, and our little nuclear family is forking over some $30,000 in rent and child care alone. If our Summit County family is fortunate enough to make the Area Median Income of $79,800 for a family of three (by no means a given - many local families function at 80 percent or less of AMI) and that leaves just about $30,000 left after taxes for food, health insurance, vehicles, clothes, utilities ... and that big vacation to Alma every spring.
Over the years, the Breckenridge Town Council has looked at these numbers and concluded that if the town is to sustain a workforce willing to stick around, be part of the community and live some kind of reasonable lifestyle, it made sense to divert some of the town's substantial, mostly tourist-driven tax revenue toward subsidizing child care and housing for locals. One is always welcome to look at government expenditure of any kind and question it, but in this area, Breck was being progressive and proactive, and quite a number of local families have benefited from their actions in this regard.
It's disheartening for more well-to-do folks or empty-nesters who raised their kids elsewhere, in another time, to bemoan less-frequent plowing, for example, and lay the blame at the feet of those local families benefiting from child care support. It's tough to believe any of these folks have truly walked a mile in a Summit County parent's shoes, where mom and dad may be working four or five jobs between them and the baby getting sick means someone's got to stay home and forgo a day's pay.
Nationally, we're confronting the stunning figure of 100 million Americans living at or very close to the poverty line. That's 1 in 3. Politicians in Washington may seem unable to do very much to lift the country out of its economic morass, but if a town like Breckenridge can take tax dollars and translate them into help for the basic needs of its citizens - and yes, its parents and children - they're right in doing so. We hope when the council changes over next April, it will continue to have a quorum that appreciates and support the good work councils before them have done in this area. The council's recent decision to punt on the question of putting a child care tax question on the April ballot was questionable, but at least council plans to keep the subsidy going into 2014.
Until local employers pay more of a living wage, Summit County's towns must continue to address the yawning gap between what things cost around here and what people are paid. It's simple math, and it's the difference between building a community of workers or a workforce comprised of commuters, transients - or people barely scraping by, always with an eye on the door.