Steamboat Springs A proposal to fund child care in Routt County will not be on the ballot this fall because of a lack of time to educate the public on the issue, according to the First Impressions Board of Directors.
The group reached that decision in a board meeting last week after considering the response the ballot question received at the Economic Summit. There, First Impressions announced that, in conjunction with the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, it would pursue a permanent funding source, possibly through a tax issue to be decided by voters in November.
"The feedback we got at the summit was that this issue is critically important, but that to combine it with the affordable housing ballot issue was too complex," said Renee Donahue, community liaison for First Impressions.
RALF still plans to pursue an affordable housing proposal on the fall ballot.
First Impressions board member Nancy Stahoviak said the group is not frustrated that a child-care proposal will not be presented to voters this fall.
"The dialogue at the Economic Summit was great," Stahoviak said. "I thought it was a very positive discussion. There's a real momentum in the community and a desire to understand the issues. It doesn't mean, in my opinion, that we're slowing down."
First Impressions did not back down from pursuing a ballot proposal because of any competition with RALF, she said.
"We didn't have enough time to adequately explain what we need the funds for and how to secure them," she said.
Before deciding on a ballot issue for next year, First Impressions will explore other potential funding sources, such as the United Way and grants.
"The important thing for us is to increase the wages and training of people who work in the child-care industry," Stahoviak said.
Parents pay $29 a day for child care, but First Impressions board member Medora Fralick said that care costs the centers $40 a day. Fralick said that if a funding source could generate approximately $1 million a year, the group could maintain and eventually increase the number of child-care slots available.
Employees at child-care centers are also leaving in droves, Fralick said.
"It would make up the difference so we can pay the child-care workers a workable wage to keep them in the community," Fralick said.
Donahue said First Impressions will continue to interact with the community to determine what are important child-1care issues for residents and what is the most appropriate way to secure a dedicated funding source for those issues.
"Although the need for a child-care subsidy to increase wages and benefits for providers is critical now and will worsen the need for community dialogue is greater than can be done prior to the November election," Donahue said.