Eagle County commissioners say they’ll prioritize early childhood education with lodging tax funds
Voter-approved measure will dedicate 90% of collections to 'workforce support'
County voters in November approved a new lodging tax. Now it’s time to determine how that money is spent.
The tax, levied in unincorporated Eagle County and the town of Gypsum — the only of the county’s towns without a lodging tax — is expected to raise $3 million in its first year.
$3 million: Estimated first-year revenue from a new county lodging tax.
10%: Portion of the tax that must be used for marketing and promotion.
90%: Portion of the tax dedicated to housing and child care.
By state law, 10% of that revenue must be dedicated to tourism promotion and marketing.
In a Monday presentation to the Eagle County Commissioners, county finance director Jill Klosterman said a three-person board must manage that money.
Klosterman said the state recommends that board members come from businesses creating the tax revenue. Her recommendation was to appoint one person from the Eagle River Valley portion of the county, one from the unincorporated areas of the Roaring Fork Valley, and one from Gypsum.
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Then there’s the matter of spending the remaining 90% of the tax revenue, which is to go toward “workforce support,” particularly child care and housing.
County Human Resources Director Megan Burch said the guiding principles for the tax money can be pulled largely from a 2016 “road map” for supporting child care and housing. Burch noted that added criteria can include equity, ensuring the Roaring Fork Valley is included and the best ways to serve low-income families.
Burch noted there are existing groups that could help determine where to spend the lodging tax money. There’s an early childhood advisory group, although Burch acknowledged the group hasn’t met in some time.
The county’s mayors and town managers, along with the county manager, meet quarterly. That group could help pull an advisory group together, Burch said.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry asked about a possible timeline to start spending the tax money.
“The ideal,” Burch said, is to start this year.
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted that officials will have an idea of revenue collections in March, when the first lodging tax funds are sent from the state to the county.
McQueeney, a longtime advocate for early childhood education, noted that state funding for several projects will end in 2024, adding there are other “opportunities” for using the funds this year.
Chandler-Henry said she’d like to see the lodging tax funds at first directed primarily to early childhood programs.
McQueeney said the tax funds “will make a dent in early childhood” efforts, adding that 80% of the cost of child care operations goes to staff pay and benefits.
Given that the county this year will spend more than $10 million on housing initiatives, the group agreed to put most of the money into child care. But Commissioner Matt Scherr said the funds could potentially be used to help create some deed-restricted child care spaces in new or existing housing projects.
McQueeney and Chandler-Henry both said they want as much transparency as possible when spending the money, with Chandler-Henry asking for an annual report.
The commissioners should have more concrete recommendations to look at in the next few weeks.