County to vote today on tax

Commissioners likely to OK ballot resolution

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote in favor today of a resolution placing a property tax for early childhood education on the November ballot.

Commissioner Dan Ellison will not be present for today's vote. Commission chairwoman Nancy Stahoviak and Commissioner Doug Monger tentatively agreed on Monday that it's an issue worthy of a vote. They are expected to cast their votes between 8:35 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. during their regular agenda today.

The resolution, drafted by Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Krauss, calls for a 1 mill property-tax increase that would raise up to $650,000 annually. The tax would be in place for four years beginning with tax year 2001.

The primary purpose of the money would be to fund scholarships that would offset the cost of day care and preschool for eligible families. The county property tax is a corollary to a half-cent increase in city sales tax for the same purpose, which could appear on the fall ballot. However, the county deliberately avoided any language in its resolution that would make the property tax contingent on the status of the city's ballot question.

"We don't think it is necessary to link the two together," Stahoviak said. "So we tried to draft a resolution that would stand on its own."

The county tax, if it passes, could be put into effect whether the city measure is placed on the ballot or the voters approve it. If both measures pass, city residents would pay both the increased property tax and sales tax. The commissioners have pointed out that the reverse is also true to a significant degree, because most people in Routt County shop in Steamboat Springs and therefore would pay the sales tax.

If the county ballot question receives a majority of the votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, the Routt County Early Childhood Education Care Fund would automatically be established.

It would also create a nine-member "Early Childhood Education and Care Advisory Board." The resolution calls for three members of the advisory board to be appointed by the City Council, including one council member; three members to be appointed by the Board of County Commissioners, one of whom will be a commissioner; and one member appointed by each of the three public school boards in Routt County.

The advisory board will recommend family scholarships based on a set of approved criteria and standards. Final approval will be by the board of commissioners. Subject to approval of the commissioners, and recommendation of the advisory board, portions of the fund not used for family scholarships could be used for grants to child-care and education providers. Finally, a limited portion of the fund might be used to fund early childhood care providers' personnel and payroll costs.

Stahoviak said it is her hope the revenues generated by both the city and county taxes, should they both pass, would go into a single fund. She said she believes participation of representatives from the schools is important.

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