Polis signs two bills at Children’s Garden of Learning in Lionshead

The governor signed the Child Care Center Property Tax Exemption and the State Grants Investments Local Affordable Housing bills into law

State Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep Dylan Roberts stand alongside Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney as Gov. Jared Polis signs the Child Care Center Property Tax Exemption bill into law.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

Gov. Jared Polis visited the Children’s Garden of Learning in Lionshead on Wednesday morning to sign two bills into law: the Child Care Center Property Tax Exemption and the State Grants Investments Local Affordable Housing. Both bills have roots in Eagle County, with leadership from local county commissioners and state lawmakers bringing them to the finish line.

Property tax exemption for child care centers

The Child Care Center Property Tax Exemption is an idea that started with Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney and was introduced in the state house of representatives by Rep. Dylan Roberts. The bill modifies a property tax exemption requirement that said only properties exclusively dedicated to charitable purposes can be exempt from property tax. Bill HB22-1006 now allows property that is used by a tenant or subtenant to operate a child care center to be eligible for the exemption.

“The reality is that the opportunity for many child care centers are in mixed use buildings,” Polis said. “It might be in a strip mall, an office building, there might be an empty unit or an empty floor that would be usable as child care. What this bill allows is for that part of the property, effectively pro rata, to be exempt from property tax, just as a standalone facility would.”

Roberts said that the concept for the bill had started with McQueeney back in 2020, and credited her leadership for making it happen.

“She brought this idea up to me, of making sure that the property tax exemption that exists for some child care centers can go to all child care centers,” Roberts said. “The cost of child care can be prohibitive to living in [mountain] communities, and everything we can do to help child care centers save money so they can open up more spots, hire more employees, and give incentives to landlords through this bill to lease to new child care centers so we can have new openings for children across the state is so important.”

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The signing of both bills took place in the playground of the Children’s Garden of Learning in Lionshead, in recognition of the expanded support for early child care education.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

The new exemption currently applies to four out of the 40 child care centers in Eagle County, but McQueeney said that when it comes to expanding child care options, every inch counts.

“That could be 200 kids, and we are short 1,500 spaces for children,” McQueeney said. “This was an idea that we knew wasn’t going to solve our early childhood cost and capacity issue, but it was an attempt to sort of chip away at some of what we could do.”

This bill joins a growing list of policies and initiatives to increase access to early child care education across the state. The Colorado legislature passed a bill establishing the state Department of Early Childhood in the summer of 2021, and Polis recently signed legislation establishing universal preschool for 4-year-olds.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, who was a student at the Children’s Garden of Learning when she was a child, added a personal anecdote about the importance of accessible early childhood education.

“My mom was able to serve in public office while I was able to explore the woods behind ABC school, and without that access to child care, I don’t know if my mom would have been able to be the community leader that she was,” Donovan said. “We know how important early child care is. It sets kids on the right path for the rest of their entire career. Study after study after study shows that.”

Largest state investment in affordable housing development to date

The second bill that Polis signed at the Children’s Garden of Learning created two state grant programs that together will invest $178 million dollars towards affordable housing development in the state. It is the largest investment in affordable housing initiatives to date.

The two programs are the affordable housing grant program and the infrastructure and strong communities grant program. The first, which is allocated $28 million dollars, awards infrastructure grants to local governments designed to incentivize them to develop affordable housing within sustainable development patterns. The second, which is allocated $150 million dollars, provides grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to enable them to make investments in transformational affordable housing and housing-related matters.

Roberts is the chair of the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force, and a prime sponsor of the HB22-1304 bill.

“This bill, along with the other recommendations of the Affordable Housing Task Force, represents the single largest investment that Colorado has ever made into affordable housing in a legislative session, and to be a part of this bill and all the other bills has been a true honor,” Roberts said. “This is the No. 1 issue I hear from my constituents here in Eagle County and across the Western Slope, is housing. We need to do more in the Colorado Legislature this year, with the governor’s help, really stepping up to make sure that we get more people housed in affordable and sustainable housing.”

Rep. Dylan Roberts is the chair of the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force, and a prime sponsor of the HB22-1304 bill.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

The bill appropriates $431,985 to the governor’s office for its implementation in the 2022-23 state fiscal year, and will continue to provide local housing programs with the financial support to turn ideas into reality.

​​”We have got to reduce the cost of homeownership in Colorado,” Polis said. “It’s one of the biggest issues we hear in the High Country, in the Denver Metro area, in rural Colorado. This bill won’t fix everything, but it will be a big step towards having more affordable housing supply close to where jobs are, and working hand in hand with local governments that are taking action to create more housing to reduce costs for residents.”

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