Child services tax heads for ballot |

Child services tax heads for ballot

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyEagle Care Clinic nurse Carol Conger play's with Jauier Lujain in the waiting room. Proponents of the child services initiative say the local clinic needs help to serve low-income children in Eagle County.

EAGLE ” Beth Reilly wishes she could help more kids and families. If voters pass a tax increase this fall, she may get the chance.

Reilly, the manager of the Eagle Care Clinic in Edwards, Tuesday told the Eagle County Commissioners about the heartbreak of turning away families with young children.

“Our needs exceed our capacities,” Reilly said. “We’ve turned away 86 kids under the age of 5 this year. This (tax) would help us meet that capacity.”

The Eagle County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday ” with Commissioner Tom Stone casting the no vote and commissioners Peter Runyon and Arn Menconi voting yes ” to put the tax proposal on the November ballot. If passed, the tax would raise as much as $3.6 million per year, and would pay for “early childhood” services including health care, day care, “emotional support” for kids and “family support” to those with young children.

The decision to put the tax proposal to voters came after county officials and local nonprofit groups conducted a survey of the state of early childhood services in the county.

The results of that survey indicated that many county families don’t have health insurance. The survey also indicated the county has far more kids younger than 6 than licensed daycare spots.

While providing money for more daycare and preschool spots ” and, perhaps, better pay for the people who work in those center ” is part of the tax proposal, helping families get and keep their kids healthy is another.

“This is not about cheap baby-sitting,” Reilly said.

If the tax passes, and the clinic gets some of the available money, Reilly said more help could go toward kids like one who’s been in the clinic in just the past few weeks.

“He had repeated infections,” Reilly said. “We just can’t cure him.”

The reason, she said, is the boy’s teeth are full of cavities, places where infectious bacteria can fester, keeping the youngster sick. Eagle Care Clinic doesn’t offer dental services, and without that, the boy probably won’t get healthy.

There’s no guarantee that the clinic will get more money, even if the tax increase passes. A volunteer committee will evalute requests, then make recommendations to the county commissioners, who will have the final say about where the money goes.

We’ll get money to where we find the most need,” Commissioner Arn Menconi said.

But Commissioner Tom Stone predicted the ballot issue would fail, then voted against putting it on the ballot.

“The only portion of this I support is the health care,” Stone said. “There’s a lack of specificity. It’s not articulated clearly enough.”

After the meeting, Menconi said Stone had missed several meetings at which the survey and potential ballot issue were discussed.

“I think it’s disingenuous for him to make claims to what will and won’t work,” Menconi said.

Vail Colorado

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