Support for day-care tax studied
EAGLE COUNTY ” Think of it as temperature-taking.
In an effort to determine support for a possible property tax hike, Eagle County officials have hired a Summit County firm to conduct a survey of local voters.
That survey asks questions about government-funded early childhood programs, such as more funding for day care centers, better pay for day care employees, or providing county-funded health care for low-income families. The survey also had questions to gauge how much voters might be willing to pay.
Linda Venturoni, the consultant doing the survey, said results should be released within the next couple of weeks.
That will leave another few weeks for Commissioner Arn Menconi to find another vote to put a tax increase question on the fall ballot. Menconi talked about the need for more and better programs for families with young children during his “state of the county” address in January. Menconi was in an all-day meeting Wednesday and referred questions to county spokesman Justin Finestone.
Commissioner Tom Stone said he thinks Menconi and Commissioner Peter Runyon will vote to put the tax question on the fall ballot. He said he’ll probably vote against the idea.
“It’s not a perceived need in the county,” Stone said, referring to a survey done last year by the Eagle County Department of Health and Human Services.
In that unscientific survey, residents were asked if the county was putting enough money into several projects. At the top of the “needs more money” list was affordable housing. Child care was at the bottom, below bike lanes on county roads.
“I think this a noble, but misguided effort on Commissioner Menconi’s part,” Stone said.
For now, though, there isn’t a ballot question. The county commissioners haven’t reviewed a ballot issue, much less voted on one, and County Attorney Bryan Treu said his office hasn’t yet been asked to draft, or even review a tax question.
And, Runyon said, it’s far from certain if there will be a tax question.
“That’s why we’re doing the survey, to see if there is support,” Runyon said. “This is an issue Arn is passionate about. But there are so many issues on the ballot, I don’t want it to be swamped in a sea of other issues.”
If voters are asked for a tax increase, it will have to be put on the ballot in the next few weeks. The deadline to put issues on the fall ballot is Sept. 8.
If there is a tax question, it will be one result of a survey the Eagle County Department of Health and Human Services did this year. That survey, which isn’t in its final form yet, contains several facts and figures about day care, health care, what’s available for parents of young children and what it costs.
That study was funded in this year’s county budget, and the $9,000 cost of the current phone survey was included in the study’s overall price tag.
And, Treu said, a survey about a ballot question is legal.
“Until there’s something on the ballot, we can do surveys,” Treu said. “Once it’s on the ballot, we can’t campaign.”
If the commissioners do ask voters for a tax increase, it will be one more item on what promises to be a full state and local ballot.
The Eagle County School district is likely to ask voters for money ” perhaps as much as $150 million ” for a new high school and other facilities, and the Eagle Valley Library District may ask voters for as much as $15 million to add on to or build new buildings.
“This does potentially complicate what we’re doing,” said Scott Green, president of the Eagle County School Board.
Green said he and the rest of the board are looking for more information about the possible county tax question. But, he added, a consultant the district has hired has told them multiple tax questions on a ballot don’t necessarily prompt voters into a “no to everything” mood.
“She seems to think that voters are smart enough to look separately at ballot issues,” Green said. “But common sense tells me the more items are on a ballot, the harder it is to get one passed.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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