Summit Daily editorial: Our county’s future depends on 1A | SummitDaily.com

Summit Daily editorial: Our county’s future depends on 1A

Summit County Referred Measure 1A is a targeted response to some of our most urgent challenges — wildfire, mental health, child care, recycling and the upkeep of vital public spaces. We urge you to vote for it.

Yes, it's a big ask — $88 million in new taxpayer revenue over 10 years — but the Summit Daily News believes county officials have outlined a strong case for why 1A is the right way to create a stable and sustainable future for our community — in one fell swoop.

WHAT IT COSTS

A 4.7 mill levy would raise commercial and residential taxes for county residents annually by $33.96 for every $100,000 of property value. So for a property worth $1 million, the owner will pay $340 in additional property taxes each year for the next decade.

WHAT YOU GET

The $8.8 million generated would be divided annually, with a guaranteed $1 million for wildfire prevention, $2 million for mental health services and suicide prevention, $1.7 million for recycling and waste diversion, $1.6 million for county infrastructure maintenance and improvements and $2.5 million for affordable early childhood care and learning.

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Let's take each piece one by one.

MENTAL HEALTH

Summit County's suicide rate is three times the national average. The majority of Summit residents know someone with mental health or substance abuse issues. According to a recent survey, about 25 percent of high school students said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for more than two weeks.

The mental health crisis is real and we're currently ill-equipped to deal with it. 1A aims to build an infrastructure of new programs and positions that would bring new mental health services to our schools, our law enforcement agencies and those in need of long-term treatment. The bottom line: 1A will bring more mental health professionals to our county and connect them with the people who need their services the most.

CHILD CARE

The demand for early childhood providers is far outpacing the county's supply. Around 345 children are on waiting lists for an early childhood provider, mostly infants and toddlers.

Of all the items in 1A, the pre-kindergarten piece receives the most funding. The initiative asks for $25 million over 10 years to ensure that Summit families — already burdened by high rents and health care costs — don't spend more than 7 to 10 percent of their income on pre-kindergarten child care. Specifically, the funding will go to providing tuition credits for 4-year-old children and building a new child care center on the north end of the county.

Let's face it: Summit County's high cost of living requires two-income families. That's the reality. We know high-quality childhood education sets children up for future academic success. It's imperative that we support our working families. 1A is a great start.

WILDFIRE MITIGATION

For the past two summers, Summit County was on fire. Plumes of smoke filled the air and thousands of homes were evacuated as wildfires tore through Summit's beetle-ravaged forests. In the case of the Buffalo Mountain Fire, fuel breaks around the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods prevented catastrophe. As the Mountain West continues to dry out and snowpack dwindles, wildfire seasons will grow longer and more intense. 1A, with its $1 million bump in funding, gives us a fighting chance to better protect our communities. As U.S. Forest Service funding shrinks, it is essential we take responsibility for our safety.

RECYCLING

Summit County's recycling rate is an embarrassment. We recycle and compost less than 25 percent of our garbage. That's far below the national average of 34 percent.

The problem is that recycling does not pay for itself. Summit County's recycling program operates at a $500,000 deficit because it relies solely on tipping fees paid by waste haulers. The irony there is that the more we recycle (i.e. divert waste from the landfill) the less money we have to … recycle — hence the deficit. Additionally, the international market for recyclables has collapsed.

That means if we value recycling, we're going to have to pay for it.

1A will bring the funding necessary to increase our diversion rate to 40 percent by 2035. It will do that by adding a new recycling drop-off center in the Silverthorne/Dillon area, expanding food scrap recycling programs across the county and increasing our capacity to accept more materials.

BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS

Maybe this component doesn't have the emotional weight of the others. However, renovating our Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco and our public libraries is worth your support. Those facilities act as community gathering spaces. We need them now and in the future.

CONCLUSION

The Summit Daily News encourages voters to support Referred Measure 1A. Summit County is setting an example in the mountains: We identify our problems and face them head on.

The Summit Daily editorial board includes Publisher Meg Boyer, Editor Ben Trollinger, Assistant Editor Susan Gilmore and reporters Sawyer D'Argonne and Deepan Dutta.

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