Little Mill for Little People (for a Big Economic Impact)
by Jill Burchmore, Consultant, Alder Creek Services
Sep 04, 2008 | 655 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GUEST COMMENTARY

The San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners has approved ballot question 1A and will place it on the November ballot. The ballot initiative is to improve the quality, availability and affordability of early childhood care and learning for San Miguel County families. The ballot question is a property tax San Miguel County wide 0.75 of a mil, which is approximately the equivalent of $30 per year for a $500,000 home owner.

The total economic impact of childcare in San Miguel County is $5 million, according to a study conducted by BBC Research and Consulting out of Denver. By enabling parents to work, the childcare industry generates $2.4 million for the county economy. This represents the after-tax income gained by workers who would otherwise leave the workforce or reduce their hours if they did not have childcare available. In addition, the economy gains $2.7 million through the operations of childcare centers.

While commercial property taxes increase almost three times that of residential, businesses may be affected by the economic impact of the childcare industry. “The cost of this tax is minimal compared to the cost of training new employees each time there is turnover due to unavailable childcare,” said Allan Gerstle, San Miguel County Social Services Director. “Whether you have children or not, own a home or rent, own a business, or live and work in San Miguel County, this issue affects you!”

According to the childcare survey conducted by BBC, if childcare were not available in San Miguel County, in 42 percent of households, at least one household member would exit the workforce, while 30 percent of worker households with children would move out of the county. The average household would lose $26,000 per year in earnings.

According to the Department of Labor, in 1950, one in 10 mothers of children from birth to age 5 worked outside the home. Today, seven out of 10 mothers work. While most children attend early learning centers so that their parents can work, it is important to understand the necessity of early learning whether or not the parent needs the childcare for their work schedules. According to a Harvard University Press, one in five kids is not ready for kindergarten. By age 5, 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred. Ironically, 95 percent of public investment in education occurs after age 5, when the most critical learning years have passed.

“I work in the industry and I didn’t get it until I began attending the child task force meetings,” said Dori Shapiro, Telluride Preschool teacher. “Every community member needs to understand the importance of this ballot initiative. It’s not just about the children. It’s not just about the parents. It’s about the vitality of our community and our economy.”

Permanent funding for childcare will support direct service programs such as financial assistance and childcare scholarships, early childhood teacher recruitment and retention, early childhood quality education initiatives, home visitation and parent education programs, and childcare center expansion (i.e. expanding our community childcare capacity to meet the population needs over time). According to BBC’s study, the regional average salary of childcare workers is $23,000. Additionally, San Miguel County has approximately 350 families on wait lists to receive care and San Miguel County saw a 68 percent birth rate increase from 2000-2006. Research studies confirm that children with strong early learning experiences are more likely to finish high school, more likely to attend college, less likely to be unemployed, and less likely to commit crimes. According to the Economic Impact of Child Care in Colorado analysis study, for every $1 invested in early childhood care and education, society saves $4-$7. Children who receive quality early learning care spend less time in special education and are less likely to depend on welfare. Providing quality early learning care is much more efficient than responding later with expensive corrective solutions.

For more information on 1A, please visit www.yesfor1A.org. If you would like to support 1A, Little Mill for Little People (for a big Economic Impact), please email yesfor1A@gmail.com or call me at 970/708-5037.
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