Sales tax hikes could hit November ballot |

Sales tax hikes could hit November ballot

EAGLE — Eagle County’s commissioners hired a research firm to learn that, for most of us, it’s tough to find an affordable place to live.

The commissioners paid Magellan Strategies $15,500 to gauge possible voter support for a pair of potential November sales tax questions:

A .3 percent sales tax to help fund affordable housing.

A separate .3 percent sales tax to help childcare and early childhood education.

“We often hear of young families who leave their jobs and move out of the county due to a lack of childcare and affordable housing.”Magellan StrategiesLouisville, Colorado-based research firm

At 0.3 percent each, the two taxes would raise about $4.5 million each year.

The commissioners — Democrats Jill Ryan, Kathy Chandler-Henry and Jeanne McQueeney — have not committed to a November ballot question.

Folks told the pollsters that both affordable housing and childcare are problems that someone should do something about. Who should do what remains the conundrum.

“It confirmed what we heard in the community meetings,” McQueeney said.

About the survey

Magellan, a Louisville, Colorado-based research firm, said it polled 500 likely Eagle County voters using both land lines and cell phones. Magellan did the survey in mid-May.

The findings include:

• 74 percent said finding affordable housing is a big problem.

• 64 percent would approve a .3 percent sales tax increase to fund residential housing.

• 42 percent say finding affordable childcare and early childhood education services in Eagle County is a big problem

• 61 percent of voters would approve a .3 percent sales tax increase to fund early childhood education services.

• When the two issues are combined, support falls; 55 percent would support an unspecified sales tax increase to fund both early childhood education and housing developments in Eagle County.

Living wages

For most of us, there’s too much month left at the end of the money.

If you’re a two-parent household with two children, both adults have to earn $16.45 an hour to be able to live in Eagle County, according to a living wage calculator conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To make it in Eagle County, that same two-parent household must spend no more than $14,328 on housing, MIT calculated.

Around the region

In the Central Rockies Resort Region, Summit County charges a sales tax for affordable housing. Pitkin County uses its real estate transfer tax to fund affordable housing projects.

Garfield and Eagle counties currently do not have a tax-supported affordable housing program.

This proposal for a child care tax isn’t the same as a proposal that was soundly defeated several years ago. McQueeney said we have much more information, the general public understands the issues better, and nationwide polling finds child care is a bipartisan issue.

El Jebel and Basalt host business roundtables in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the prevailing view is that employers can’t hire employees because of difficulties finding childcare, among other reasons.

“If you can’t keep your middle class here, it changes who we are as a community,” McQueeney said.

The commissioners will have to decide by early August if they want to put the proposals on the November ballot. Some of it depends on what’s already headed for the ballot, McQueeney said.

The school district is preparing to pull the trigger on a proposed property tax increase package.

Right direction

According to Magellan, some respondents said that the “significant challenges of finding affordable residential housing and affordable early childhood education services” … “keeps parents out of the workforce.”

“In fact, we often hear of young families who leave their jobs and move out of the county due to a lack of childcare and affordable housing,” Magellan reported respondents as saying.

Those surveyed were generally happy living in Eagle County: 72 percent said Eagle County is headed in the right direction, and between 59 percent and 64 percent said the county’s economy is in good shape.

The commissioners also hired Magellan to gauge support for using some of the voter-approved open space fund to purchase and maintain soft and hard trails.

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