County, Breck: Vote yes for kids in 2013 |

County, Breck: Vote yes for kids in 2013

Courtesy Timberline Learning CenterA town-subsidized scholarship program helps low-income families cover the cost of child care at Timberline Learning Center, shown above. Town and Summit County officials are asking Breckenridge voters to support two tax measures to fund child care and early childhood learning programs, like the scholarships, in Breckenridge and across the county.

BRECKENRIDGE – The town of Breckenridge and Summit County government are dubbing 2013 the “Year of the Child,” asking Breckenridge voters to approve two different tax questions to provide funding for early childhood programs in November.

The questions will be paired under a joint campaign effort with the local governments working to get a yes vote on both questions.

“The objective is for both to pass,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said. “This is the ‘Year of the Child’ in Summit County.”

Revenue from the Breckenridge ballot question, which could be a sales or a property tax, will be used to fund an existing scholarship program providing child care to low-income families in Breckenridge. The county question will likely ask voters to continue an existing property tax funding Early Childhood Options, a nonprofit working to improve and expand early childhood programs across the county.

Only Breckenridge voters will see both questions on their ballots. Voters residing anywhere else in the county will see just the county question.

But officials say Breckenridge’s support could be necessary for the countywide question to pass.

Citing concerns about putting two tax questions on the same ballot and the common theme of the two issues, Breckenridge and county officials agreed at a meeting Tuesday night to join forces on the campaign effort.

Officials said that if either question is voted down, it would be difficult to ask the public for the money again on a future ballot or to pull it from the existing budget.

“Anybody that gets stuck with second place, in terms of renewing, is really in a dangerous place,” County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said. “That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion we’ve got to do this together.”

Breckenridge needs to generate approximately $800,000 per year from the tax and will propose either a .24 percent sales-tax increase – raising the rate to 8.515 percent in town – or a slight property-tax increase. It is very likely the county won’t ask for an increase at all, but rather ask voters to continue an existing property tax, which is set to end in 2016. The tax currently is pulling in more than $750,000 annually for Early Childhood Options. Both it and the Breckenridge child care scholarship program depend on the approval of the tax questions in November.

The town’s subsidies of child care programs have been a point of controversy in Breckenridge. Opponents say the program directs public funds to expenses that benefit only a few. Supporters say it is a necessary investment in the town’s workforce, which otherwise might not be able to remain in town given the high cost of living.

Town leaders have charged supporters with surveying the public and collecting 600 signatures from registered voters backing the tax measure.

County officials say surveys show strong countywide support for early childhood funding: Polls have indicated it is among voters’ top priorities in Summit County.

Other Summit towns and the Summit School District also could ask voters for tax increases in November. There will likely be statewide tax questions on this year’s ballot as well, at least one of which will deal with taxes on the sale of marijuana.

The Tax Payer Bill of Rights, a voter approved law, says taxes cannot be increased in Colorado without a vote of the people.

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