Breckenridge to vet child care tax with voters
Ryan Summerlin February 26, 2013
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge officials want community input before putting a child care tax initiative on November ballots.
Town leaders have charged supporters of the tax with surveying and collecting 600 signatures from voters backing the tax measure, which they say will indicate likely success on the ballot.
“The poll will give us a strong indication if we go forward with a ballot initiative,” Councilman Gary Gallagher said.
If approved, the tax would generate dedicated money allowing the town to continue to provide a scholarship fund for low-income families to be used for early childhood education, as well as subsidize a teacher salary support program.
Officials plan to ask local voters whether they would support a new funding measure for child care and, if so, whether they would prefer a property or a sales tax.
The measure would need to generate at least $800,000 annually to sustain the program. Voters would be asked to approve either a .24 percent increase, bumping the Breck sales tax rate to 8.515 percent or a mill levy increase, according to a Breck staff memo.
The sales tax would ultimately work out to be less expensive for locals, but some members of the business community, particularly the restaurant industry, have come out against a sales tax increase.
The town is currently spending $590,000 to provide scholarships to 180 children, but the existing funding source will end in 2014. The scholarships provide assistance to local residents spending more than 12-15 percent of their income on child care.
Current town funding for the scholarships has drawn some criticism in the community, with opponents saying the program directs public funds to expenses that only benefit a few. But supporters say the investment in child care helps members of Breckenridge’s workforce remain in Breck despite the relatively high cost of living.
With a child care question well on the road to the November ballot, and a second, countywide ballot initiative to provide funding for a local recycling facility under serious discussion as well, it’s possible Breckenridge voters may be asked to raise their own taxes twice at the polls later this year.
The county government is also working on a third ballot question to provide funding for a countywide early childhood program called Right Start, although the timing and amount of the measure have not yet been determined.
Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson asked Breckenridge officials to hold their child care question until a later date given that it coincides with a similar countywide tax measure.
But Breckenridge officials said they aren’t interested in waiting.
“We shouldn’t adjust our timeline based on what anybody else is dong,” Councilman Ben Brewer said. “I think both of those could be won.”
Breckenridge would need to carry the Right Start funding measure for the county-
wide tax question to pass, early childhood education leaders said.