Summit Commissioners commit to child care in Silverthorne, Breckenridge asks to be next on the list
BRECKENRIDGE — At the Breckenridge Town Council work session on Tuesday, Jan. 28, the council held a joint meeting with the Summit Board of County Commissioners and discussed the lack of child care options in the county. At the Oct. 22 meeting, staff reported that the waitlist for child care in Breckenridge was approximately 250 and that the town would need to find a new source of funding for the child care program by 2024. When meeting with the county board, Breckenridge asked the commissioners about possible sources of funding for child care.
“We’ve identified that we have quite a shortage in Breckenridge … We want to get a sense of what you guys are thinking for child care money over the next three years,” council member Dick Carleton said.
County Manager Scott Vargo said there are several pieces of Strong Future funds that are related to child care funding. The funding allocates $25 million to early child care assistance over 10 years and was passed as a ballot measure in 2018. Vargo said that $2.5 million per year goes towards the Summit County preschool program and $500,000 per year goes towards community and public facility funding specifically for child care. Vargo explained that as part of the ballot question, the county identified a strong need for child care on the north end of the county.
In order to address this need, Vargo said the county is providing 75% of the funding needed for a child care center at the Smith Ranch neighborhood in Silverthorne. The town will provide 25% of the funding.
Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland reported that a memorandum of understanding between the town and the county was created in December. He added that the two parties are currently working on an inter-governmental agreement that will formally commit the parties to the concepts in the memorandum and expand upon details.
“We are excited to partner with Summit County to increase capacity for child care, and while we are at the very beginning of the process we’ve already received inquiries from parents wishing to get on a wait list. We are not ready to create a wait list yet, but those phone calls certainly illustrate the need for increased capacity,” Hyland said in an email.
While commissioners made it clear that this center in Silverthorne is the first priority, Vargo said they are open to having conversations about what other funds would be available for Breckenridge.
Council member Erin Gigliello asked the commissioners if there were numbers on the level of need in each town. Commissioner Thomas Davidson said that they asked Early Childhood Options staff to put together data on the population of kids under 5 years old by zip code.
46% — 80435 (Dillon, Dillon Valley, Summit Cove and Keystone)
26% — 80498 (Wildernest and Heeney)
18% — 80424 (Breckenridge and Blue River)
10% — 80443 (Frisco and Copper Mountain)
*percentages have been rounded
The study finds that the most children live within the zip code 80435, which includes Dillon, Dillon Valley, Summit Cove and Keystone. The Breckenridge zip code, 80424, was listed as the third of four Summit County zip codes for child population.
“So, you guys are providing way more child care options than the distribution of the kids in the county. … Maybe that is related to where the jobs are at. I think if we do it right, there’s certainly going to be additional funds to do more,” Davidson said.
Davidson said they will want to identify if people prefer to have their children taken care of where they live or where they work. Carleton said that another element to look at when addressing need is the waiting list at current facilities.
Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence argued that at this point in time, the question of whether to put these centers where people live or where they work is not as important because there is a clear need for additional child care slots everywhere in the county. To address the waiting list problem in Breckenridge, Carleton noted that a study is being done that will determine if it would be more effective to expand upon current child care facilities or to build a new facility.
Council members voiced concern over the amount of county funding that will go towards the Silverthorne child care project as there is no designated cap for the funding.
“We very clearly during the campaign identified that the priority was to get a center into Silverthorne. So, that’s what we said, that’s what we described during the campaign. So, will it get the lion’s share of this money? It may. There are no centers there, they don’t begin to have the financial resources that this town has,” Davidson said.
“Are we going to get to a point where we’re ready with a project and there’s really just no money left? If that’s where it is, that’s where it is. I’d like to know that going forward,” Mayor Eric Mamula said.
Vargo said that while they don’t know the exact cost of the new facility, the estimated cost is $4 million. Davidson added that the county will attempt to secure significant funding beyond the Strong Future funding.
“I think what’s important to us is this community got way out in front years ago building several child care centers … by doing so, we benefited so many other families and children not just in Breckenridge but throughout the county. I think in terms of a show of good faith, because I think Breckenridge really has helped the entire county with these child care facilities we’d like to think that we’re number two,” council member Gary Gallagher said.
Vargo said the county is looking at doing some small-scale investments at Lake Dillon Preschool and would be interested in talking about similar projects in Breckenridge.
“We’d love to know what your plans are when you get your study and what direction you’re going … so that we can think about how that would fit into our plans as well,” Lawrence said.
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