Child care scholarship future in limbo after Breckenridge votes down tax measure
Ryan Summerlin November 8, 2013
One hundred voters in Breckenridge chose not to decide on issue 2B, a new property tax measure that would have funded child care scholarships.
Those blank votes might have been the difference between victory and defeat. The measure was rejected, with 53 percent voting against it. There were 1,217 ballots in town, but only 1,117 of those were counted because 100 people did not answer the question. The measure was defeated by only 75 votes — 596 to 521.
Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, spokeswoman for the town, said the Breckenridge Town Council will discuss the future of the scholarships at the next two meetings when it looks over the proposed budget.
“There are a lot of different ideas out there,” she said. “It’s hard to know ahead of time. We will regroup and look at the data to evaluate how people voted and discuss what’s next.”
She said council members will talk with the public and bring ideas to the table, and consult with the child care task force for an alternative plan.
The task force presented the tax proposal to the town council as a way to continue current funding. An existing property tax that now pays for the child care fund, and that was approved by voters years ago, is ending. The proposed property tax had the goal of raising $800,000 for 2014 and continuing annually.
Lucinda Burns, Early Childhood Options director, said the need for the funding was critical because there are so many working families in the area.
“Parents wont lose their scholarships tomorrow or anything,” she said. “But I was personally surprised the Breckenridge voters didn’t fully recognize how critical this is to the whole community.”
Burns, a member of the child care task force, said it was a tricky scenario, especially since a county-wide child care funding issue on the ballot did pass.
“I can’t imagine we can walk away from it,” she said. “We need to move forward to make child care affordable. It’s such an important need.”
Martha Meier, Carriage House Early Learning Center executive director, said the next step is to work with town council to come up with short-term and long-term solutions for the funding issue.
“I know our community leaders have always been super-supportive,” she said. “I’m pretty confident we can come up with some solution to help families.”
Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney said she thought the language on the ballot for the proposed tax might have discouraged some people from voting. She said even though it had to be presented as a new property tax, residents actually would have seen lower taxes since the old mill levy, which 2B would have replaced, was higher than the proposed one.
She said the town currently has money in reserve to support the child care fund fullys.
“We do have many families on those scholarships who count on that,” Meier said. “It’s a balance between quality care and the true cost of care and making that affordable.”