No childcare tax on November ballot
EAGLE COUNTY — Two of Eagle County’s three county commissioners opted not to put a childcare tax on the November ballot.
Voters will get to decide two other tax questions from Eagle County:
1. Do we want to increase sales tax by 0.3 percent — about $5.4 million annually — to fund workforce housing?
2. Do we want to extend the open space and trails sales tax to 2040, and use up to 20 percent of the $4.25 million it generates annually as collateral to borrow money to finish the county’s trail system in five years, instead of the 40 years it would take under the current system. That would cost $19.95 million for construction, and $32.7 million with principal and interest.
$2 million subsidy was too much
Voters will not vote on a childcare tax, despite passionate arguments from Commissioner Jill Ryan. She advocated for both a childcare tax and a childcare center and programs in Edwards.
The building was supposed to be built with private funds organized by some local philanthropists.
The programs, however, would need at least $2 million a year from Eagle County taxpayers to subsidize it. That was too much for commissioners Jeanne McQueeney and Kathy Chandler-Henry.
The commissioners did, however, direct the county staff to try to find up to $2 million in the county’s 2017 budget to assist and improve early childhood education and childcare programs already running in the county.
The county commissioners are scheduled to make their final vote Tuesday on their two remaining tax proposals.
Housing tax 4-part plan
If voters approve the housing tax in November, as it’s configured now, none of it will be spent on housing seasonal employees.
The money would be spent on:
1. Increasing the number of long-term rental housing units.
2. More for-sale units constructed as part of public private partnerships.
3. Acquiring land for affordable housing projects.
4. More robust down payment assistance program. Since its inception the county’s down payment assistance program has made $5.5 million in loans on $120 million of real estate transactions. The default rate is less than 3 percent.
Other possibilities include unit buy downs. That means if someone is going to sell a housing unit that is supposed to be part of an affordable housing, but the price is so high that someone in the workforce can’t buy it, the housing fund could help push that price back down.
Open space tax
It took multiple times on the ballot for Eagle County voters to originally approve the open space tax. It finally passed in 2002 by 51 votes.
In a separate tax question, voters approved a transportation tax that funds the ECO bus system. Some of that tax is used for the ECO trails system.
The most visible part of the ECO trails system is the paved recreation trail running from the top of Vail Pass to the mouth of Glenwood Canyon. However, several gaps exist along that trail.
If voters approve the changes in the open space tax, the county would borrow money to fill in those gaps and finish that trail, as well as other projects around the county, such as soft trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
School district taxes
Advocates of the school district’s tax packages lobbied the commissioners not to put the childcare tax on the ballot this year, fearing it would hurt their chances of winning in November.
The school board is expected to approve two tax questions in Wednesday’s meeting. They’ll be asking voters for permission to:
• Borrow $144 million to replace and renovate schools,
• Increase operating revenue by $8 million annually.
If voters approve both, it’ll increase residential property taxes $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed value.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors and the district will add two more school resource officers, according to the school district’s 2019-2020 budget book. The district also aised starting pay and gave staffers a 2.3% cost-of-living raise.