Child-care tax nixed

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— Residents overwhelmingly decided that they didn't want to increase taxes to support a plan to subsidize early childhood education.

Both ballot issues a countywide property tax increase and a half-cent sale tax increase in the city failed decisively Tuesday, with the Steamboat Springs Referendum 2B falling by nearly a 5-to-1 margin and Routt County Referendum 1A falling by a 4-to-1 margin.

Tami Havener director at Discovery Learning Center and a member of Campaign for Kids, a group supporting the taxes knew the taxes were in trouble when the first two precincts reported that it didn't look good, with 80 percent voting no early on.

"We'll probably run some focus groups to see why we failed," she said.

The taxes were designed to help child-care agencies that offer early childhood education for children up to age 5 by providing tuition assistance and recruiting and retaining more qualified child-care workers.

Routt County Referendum 1A asked voters to increase property taxes by one mill, or $9 per $100,000 of residential property values.

The tax increase would have provided an estimated $600,00 per year for child-care.

Steamboat Springs Referendum 2B asked voters to increase sales taxes in the city by a half-cent. Such an increase would have raised an estimated $1.6 million, for qualified child-care agencies in Steamboat Springs. Eighty percent of child-care agencies are in Steamboat Springs.

First Impressions, a group that supports early childhood education, was working to identify which child-care agencies would qualify for the subsidies if the tax had passed.

Havener said providing the tuition assistance would have been the first use for the money.

Opponents of the child-care taxes questioned how the money would be spent and why people without children should pay for child care.

They also were concerned that if the measures passed, child-care rates would rise dramatically, from an average of $32 per day per child to between $40 and $50 per day per child.

For most child-care facilities in town, the current rates are not enough to cover costs.

Havener said the taxes could have helped make up that difference without burdening parents.

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