First Impressions’ candidates’ forum marks start of busy campaign season in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

First Impressions’ candidates’ forum marks start of busy campaign season in Routt County

— It isn't easy to raise a child in Routt County.

Parents will tell you that, and so will the numbers.

For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, parents here need to bring in an income of at least $79,000 to make ends meet, according to the state's self-sufficiency standard.

In Routt County, the average median income for a household sits below that at $65,000.

"When families are struggling to make ends meet, you have to wonder about the stress that is in that household," said Stephanie Martin, the program supervisor for First Impressions of Routt County's Early Childhood Council.

How elected officials in Routt County provide support for these families will be the focus of First Impressions' annual candidates’ forum in downtown Steamboat Springs Wednesday.

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The event will offer community members a chance to get to know the people who are running for seats on local school boards and the Steamboat City Council.

"It's a chance to find out what these candidates think are the biggest challenges facing young children today," Martin said.

It’s also an opportunity for the candidates to learn more about First Impressions, which helps secure early childhood and education scholarships from Routt County United Way, the city of Steamboat and Routt County.

After they are elected, school board and city council members here can have a big impact on families who face the challenge of raising their kids in one of the more expensive places there is to raise them.

In addition to volunteering their time at First Impressions, council members oversee funding to the organization's Early Childhood Care and Education Scholarship Program.

This year, the contribution was $54,500, and the average family who benefits from that funding was a family of four making $39,000 a year, Martin said.

School board members oversee the funding their districts receive from the Colorado Preschool Program and are important voices in how the district allocates funds to kindergarten programs.

The Steamboat School Board in recent years has discussed funding its program fully.

But the idea, which carries a price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars, has not come to fruition because of budget constraints.

Candidates invited to Wednesday's forum include those who are running for the Steamboat City Council and the school boards in Hayden and Steamboat.

The event marks the kickoff of a campaign season that will see candidates address a wide range of issues.

In the coming weeks, city council members are expected to weigh in on such things as the construction of a new police station, marijuana rules and their budget priorities.

School board members will discuss a proposed statewide tax increase that would net nearly $1 billion more for public education and change how districts in the state are funded.

After the First Impressions Forum, community members can watch the city council candidates interviewed on the Oct. 4 installment of Pirate Theatre's Monthly Daily Show. Tickets are available at All That Jazz.

The segment will air on TV18 and on the radio at ESPN 98.9 starting Oct. 12.

Then, on Oct. 14, the Routt County Council on Aging will host a candidates’ forum at 12:30 p.m. in the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Residents will have a final chance to meet the candidates at an election forum sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Steamboat Board of Realtors, the Routt County Democratic Party and the Routt County Republican Party. The forum starts with a meet and greet at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 at The Steamboat Grand.

Ballots for the election will be mailed to voters starting Oct. 15.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

If you go

What: First Impressions’ candidates’ forum

When: 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Where: Routt County Commissioners’ hearing room in the historic downtown courthouse

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