Commissioners still want to fund child care program | VailDaily.com

Commissioners still want to fund child care program

Paying for the proposal

Four-year proposal to pay for the county commissioners early learning/childcare road map

• $400,000 annually, $1.6 million over 4 years: Administration fees are expected to increase by $430,000 in 2017, compared to 2016. Much of that increase could be used to address early childhood.

• $200,000 annually, $800,000 over 4 years: The county added $207,500 in spending for early childhood in 2016. That money would go to the early childhood fund to send the county down the road toward the early childhood roadmap’s short-term high priority items.

• $100,000 annually, $400,000 over 4 years: Restructuring the animal services department cut $100,000 a year.

• $100,000 annually, $400,000 over 4 years: Another $400,000 in water quality spending would come out of the voter-approved open space and trails fund, instead of the general fund.

• $420,000 annually, $1.68 million over 4 years: They’d shift $1.68 million away from grants to local non-profits, $420,000 a year over the next four years.

• $600,000 annually: $2.4 million over 4 years: They would spend down the county’s fund balance by $2.4 million over the next four years.

• Total: $1.82 million annually, $7,280,000 over 4 years

EAGLE — The Eagle County commissioners want to spend $1.82 million a year on childcare programs, and have started sifting through the budget to find it.

"We need to be deliberate about how we do this, and what the county's role is," said commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.

A $75,000 study — $50,000 from the county and $25,000 from the school district — called Eagle County's childcare situation a "crisis."

“We need to be deliberate about how we do this and what the county’s role is.”Kathy Chandler-HenryEagle County commissioner

However, two of the three commissioners — Jeanne McQueeney and Chandler-Henry — rejected a proposal to put a childcare tax on the November ballot, saying voters would not support a $2 million annual subsidy for a proposed Edwards-based program.

But they still want to move ahead with their early childhood and childcare program. Monday's first look at a staff proposal found ways to raise the $1.82 million they said they want, but they're far from done, they said.

They've scheduled another work session for Oct. 3, and a more in-depth look at how to implement their early learning childcare roadmap.

Peace out, Pitco

Among the possible places to find money is Pitkin County.

Eagle County will end its public assistance contract with Pitkin County. Pitkin County pays Eagle County to handle its health and human services. That will end July 1, 2017, as will two jobs that cost a total of $145,000 per year.

Since 2007, the number of Pitkin County human services cases has increased from 100 to more than 1,000, a 721 percent increase.

Among other proposals:

• Moving wood chipping in-house and renting a wood chipper will save $110,000 at the county landfill.

• Animal services lost 2.1 full time jobs, and those jobs will stay gone, saving $200,000 a year.

• The Eagle County Sheriff's Office is asking for a civil deputy and vehicle to serve civil lawsuits, removing that responsibility from patrol deputies. The Sheriff's Office is also asking for four more detentions officers to handle an increasing inmate population. That would cost at least $434,000 a year.

"We still have to sit down and work through our staffing proposal," said Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek. "If we don't get those positions we'll continue to do business as we are. The pie is just so big."

Balancing the balances

The county is sitting on total reserves of around $25 million, about $11 million more than the minimum the finance department says it needs. The county's budget forecasts a $500,000 spending deficit for 2016, the same deficit as 2015.

Fund balances are for one-time projects, such as roads and some of it is earmarked already, not for ongoing expenses such as programs and staffing, the commissioners said.

"It is clearly not sustainable to use a fund balance to pay for operating expenses long term," the commissioners said.

Why not now?

Instead of an early learning/childcare tax in November, the commissioners opted instead to concentrate on a sales tax to fund workforce housing.

In addition to the county's taxes, the commissioners said they did not want jeopardize the school district's November bond request for $144 million for building projects, and another $8 million a year for operations.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.