Proposed child care tax splits commissioners
County tax proposals so far
1. The open space tax will be on the ballot, asking voters to push the sunset back from 2020 to 2040.
2. The proposed sales tax for workforce housing will almost certainly be on the ballot. How much they’ll request remains to be hammered out.
3. One of three things could happen with a proposed sales tax to fund childcare. One, it could go on the ballot separately; two, it could be woven into the workforce housing proposal, or, three, it could be left off entirely.
The commissioners will continue discussing proposed sales tax increases during Tuesday’s meeting, at the Eagle County Building, 500 Broadway in Eagle
EAGLE — County Commissioner Jill Ryan is convinced that the time is now to ask voters for millions of tax dollars to fund child care.
County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney spent her entire private sector career in early childhood education and said the funding is needed but that she is convinced a child care tax proposal will lose.
In the middle is Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.
A sharply divided Board of County Commissioners, all Democrats, spent hours Monday debating three proposed sales tax increases. They’ll be back at it today during their regular meeting.
Lessons learned, or not
McQueeney was at forefront of a 2006 campaign to pass a similar tax. That effort “got creamed,” she said, despite a broad coalition of support.
She advocated that the commissioners put the workforce housing tax on the ballot this November, and revisit the child care tax in 2018 or 2020.
“In four years we can talk about the importance of children. Right now, it’s about the importance of parents,” McQueeney said.
McQueeney was struck by the irony of her situation.
“I can’t believe I am advocating against a child care tax,” McQueeney said.
Ryan countered that people in the Roaring Fork Valley say the tax needs to go now, that they cannot wait another year.
“We’ve got momentum, people ready to campaign and the polling in place,” Ryan said.
Opposition is already organizing to a proposal the could be seen as government going into competition against private businesses.
“People working in child care right now will not support it and will campaign against it,” McQueeney said.
Building before programs
Among the many issues floating around the child care tax is a proposed building in Edwards that would be built by some local philanthropists. The program would be operated by the county, and according to a business plan from one of those donors, it would have to be subsidized, McQueeney said in an earlier meeting.
The proposed building in Edwards would accommodate about 225 kids.
“That would mean 225 kids are getting a very, very good education. The perception is that others get nothing,” McQueeney said. “We’re not really expanding the number of families that get support.”
McQueeney said she will not support building an Edwards center with a child care tax right now, insisting that voters would also reject it. She suggested moving forward more slowly, getting a program in place before asking voters to approve a tax increase.
It’s a lesson she said she learned after that 2006 debacle.
“We lost 10 years in the early childhood world,” McQueeney said.
Stuck in the middle is County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. She said there’s no clear community consensus about the child care tax, as there is with workforce housing, leaving the question whether to combine it with the housing tax or leave it off the ballot.
The commissioners have until Sept. 7 to put any or all of the sales tax proposals on the ballot.
School district ready with its tax
In the meantime, Eagle County’s school board is expected to vote Wednesday to ask voters for permission to borrow $144 million to replace and renovate school buildings and another $8 million a year in increased operating revenue.
If voters approve both, it would cost residential property owners just over $40 per $100,000 of their home’s assessed value.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.