The Breckenridge Town Council agreed to keep more than $800,000 in the 2014 budget to fund the existing child care scholarship program for the next year.
The town implemented the program for local families and employees to help them cover rising tuition rates. The child care fund was previously part of the town’s affordable housing fund, and the money has now been moved out into its own separate fund.
The revenue source currently sustaining the program is set to expire in 2014. Voters did not approve a property tax on Nov. 5 — ballot initiative 2B — to generate ongoing revenue to keep the program going.
“We’re not going to pull the rug out from under the child care program for 2014,” said Mayor John Warner. “But this is a wake-up call.”
The proposed budget would transfer $2.3 million of the existing child care-related fund balance to the capital fund — spending for projects such as building renovations and road improvements.
For the 2014 child care fund, $813,863 will be transferred from the affordable housing fund, and an additional $8,000 from investment income will bring the total projected number to $821,863. At the Tuesday, Nov. 26 regular meeting, the council unanimously voted to approve the 2014 budget.
At the meeting, town council heard from many members of the community who were strong proponents of the child care scholarships. None of the approximately 75 people in attendance voiced opposition to the program.
Scholarship recipient Jason Smith said he has three children in daycare all at once, and he supports finding a way to fund this program into the future.
“It literally makes it possible for us to live here,” he said. “We’re an atypical situation, but there are people not doing as well as we might be who rely on this even more. Anything we can do to help it go on in 2015, we’re behind it 100 percent.”
Warner explained how two or three council seats will be up for election in April 2014, and proponents of the scholarship program should make sure to “ask the tough questions” of those candidates, related to child care.
In a letter to town council, Breckenridge resident John Andrews wrote, “Part of the 2B message is that the town needs to be run as a cost-efficient business and not as a lax social welfare agency.”
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said the council also subsides programs like the ice rink and recreation center, which many citizens benefit from.
“It’s not about whether we subsidize something, it’s what kind of quality of life we aspire to,” she said.
Warner said since the operational costs and the capital costs are separate funds, the town really needs a constant revenue stream for the child care fund. He mentioned the new excise tax on marijuana might help fill the gap.
“Ongoing operating expenses often need an offsetting revenue stream,” Warner said. “We can’t dip into our one-time balance for capital projects year after year. We have a lot of money for those things, but $800,000 a year gets rid of that balance.”
Hearthstone and Mi Casa owner Dick Carleton said as part of the business community, he believes helping local workers afford to live in-town should be a priority.
“One of the most important values we should have is that our workforce can live in the valley,” he said. “It’s critically important to the business community and our customers.”
Councilman Mark Burke said he did not believe this vote against measure 2B was a vote against the child care program itself, though he said he had received feedback that some people just didn’t like a property tax as the funding vehicle for the measure.
For parent Julie Freedman, putting two children in care for three days a week costs $1,600 per month. She said the scholarship helps take a burden off her shoulders.
“People need to work, and if we can’t put our kids in daycare, we can’t work,” she said.