With the funding source sustaining Breckenridge's child care subsidy program set to end in 2014, the town will ask voters next year to approve a dedicated tax to continue scholarships and other early childhood education assistance programs.
The town is spending $590,000 to provide scholarships to 180 local children from low-income families.
"It's not only an investment in our children," Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said. "It's for us an economic viability (issue) because our employees are able to be here. It sustains a community."
A child care task force charged with exploring the issue of a tax ballot question recommended a sales tax increase. The measure would need to generate at least $800,000 annually to sustain the program, a number that means voters would have to approve a .24 percent increase, bumping the Breck sales tax rate to 8.515 percent, according to a Breckenridge staff memo.
"There's definitely a benefit to local businesses," Breckenridge planner Laurie Best said. "That's why some people felt that a sales tax was the better option. But we might consider a property tax. Then it's more locals supporting locals. It's a tough decision."
The town will likely survey voters early next year to determine whether residents prefer a sales tax or a property tax. The ballot question must be finalized by August of next year.
Child care supporters say the program helps keep local employees in Breckenridge when they start families by curbing a significant household expense. The scholarships provide assistance to local residents spending more than 12-15 percent of their income on child care.
But there has been disagreement as to whether families, employers or the town should bear the financial burden of the program.
"Some will say, small businesses should pay for it," said Dick Carleton, a local restaurant owner and supporter of the town's child care subsidies. "But it's not reality. Small businesses in this economic environment, most of us lose money six months a year. ... I think many of the small businesses in our community have stepped up for our workforce over and over, but at times it needs to be a partnership of the public and private sectors to take on some of these bigger-scope projects."
Approximately 300 local businesses have had employees on staff benefitting from child care scholarships, town officials said.
Opponents of the program call it unfair, saying the town is spending significant public funds on subsidies that only benefit a small cross section of the Breckenridge population.
"These wasteful programs just take income from hard-working folks and transfer it to a small number of people that want things they can't otherwise afford," a resident named Don stated in reference to town housing and child care subsidies on Breckenridge's new community engagement website.
The town of Breckenridge launched the child care scholarship program in 2008. At the time, local early childhood education centers were charging low tuition rates to make care accessible, but could not cover their expenses and frequently struggled to balance budgets and retain quality teachers, according to Breckenridge staff reports.
The town created a plan that included the construction of a new child care center, debt relief for the existing centers, a salary support program - which expires this year - and child care scholarships, according to a town memorandum.