Where did the Summit County Strong Futures money go?

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Summit County Kindergarten, pictured January 8, is one of the few kindergartens in Summit County to offer early childhood education. These services are lacking in Summit County and, to help, voters passed ballot measure 1A in 2018, which spent $ 11 million on early childhood education.
Tripp Fay / For the Summit Daily News

Since the passage of Ballot Measure 1A in 2018, it has accumulated over $ 39 million which has been allocated to fund early childhood care, behavioral health programs, fire mitigation, recycling and public infrastructure around Summit County.

The measure was passed by more than 60% of Summit County voters who supported a property tax, and the Strong Futures Fund is expected to raise $ 8.8 million per year for the next 10 years. Four years later, the measurement has exceeded that estimate.

Some community members did not understand why so many focus areas were combined into one measure when it was adopted. Summit County deputy director Sarah Vaine said at the time, the community expressed interest in all five areas.



“These items were showing up as a need, and we just thought the best way to approach some of them was to get funding for each and come up with programs where we could move the needle on each one a bit instead. than focusing on funding one area, ”Vaine said.

Since the measure was passed, it has accumulated over $ 11 million for early childhood education, over $ 8.6 million for behavioral health services, nearly $ 7.1 million for public infrastructure, more than $ 7.5 million for recycling and more than $ 4.4 million for wildfire mitigation, according to the Summit County CFO. Martine Ferris.



There is a citizens’ advisory committee for each of these areas which provides information on where and how the money should be allocated. Vaine oversees the Early Childhood Education and Behavioral Health Committees, Summit County Deputy Director Bentley Henderson oversees the Wildfire Prevention and Recycling Focused Committees and the Summit County Director, Scott Vargo, oversees public infrastructure.

Early childhood education

One of the issues supported by the measure was improving access to early childhood education. At the time, Vaine said childcare options were even more limited than they are now and the purpose of the move was to provide immediate relief.

“There were families who, even though they could get a place in day care, couldn’t afford it,” Vaine said. “We know there is not enough capacity, so there are waiting lists. And there are not enough time slots for children being born and getting ready to go to school. We also know that while there are niches, the cost to many families is the difference between paying rent or paying for medical care.

Of the approximately $ 11 million accumulated for early childhood, approximately $ 7.2 million has been spent, of which approximately $ 3.9 million has been spent on reserves. Of the $ 7.2 million spent or budgeted for 2022, more than $ 5 million has been spent on tuition credits.

“The tuition credit is huge, and I remember right after this was passed the instruction (from the County Commissioners Council) was the January 1 minute we want this money to go to families so that they can start to feel the benefits in January, ”said Vaine.

Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options, wrote in an email that the average tuition credit per student is $ 740 per month, and the range is between about $ 30 per month and $ 1,500 per month. .

Other areas where this money has been spent are data and evaluation, administration, special projects which include outreach to current and new home child care providers, professional development and teacher compensation. For 2022, teacher compensation is budgeted at $ 746,750, the second-highest expense behind tuition credits, which is budgeted at $ 1.8 million.

Behavioral health

Of the roughly $ 8.6 million spent on behavioral health services, about $ 5.6 million has been spent or is currently budgeted for 2022, and more than $ 3.2 is on reserve.

When this measure was introduced, the goal was to fill the gaps in care. Among those that received funding was the Summit County Sheriff’s Office SMART program, known as the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team, which received more than $ 1.1 million. About $ 1.1 million more has gone to Building Hope Summit County to fund some of its programs. The Family and Intercultural Resource Center also received $ 866,739 to provide its mental health navigation services.

Another $ 1.1 million went to some of the school-based mental health centers offered by the Summit Community Care Clinic.

The remaining money has been spent on substance use disorder treatment services, suicide prevention and the new healing center run by the Front Range Clinic which will provide group services, peer support. , intake services, intensive outpatient therapy and more.

Recycling

Of the $ 7.5 million accumulated for recycling, more than $ 5.9 million has been spent or is budgeted for 2022 and just over $ 1.6 million is on reserve. Deputy County Director Bentley Henderson said when the ballot measure was passed in 2018, the community expressed interest in setting tough recycling targets.

“People in the county had indicated that they wanted to try and look for opportunities for us to improve our recycling efforts in order to have a higher diversion rate and to take the necessary steps to do so,” said Henderson.

Most of the money spent – about $ 2.3 million – goes to the county’s recycling program.

“The recycling part of our solid waste efforts is not paying off,” said Henderson. “This is a payment to the solid waste fund to cover expenses associated with the recycling effort. When the program was originally designed,… one of the main messages we tried to get across to the public was that in order to be successful in our recycling we need to make sure that the solid waste fund is not encumbered by the recycling program. . “

An additional $ 2.3 million has been spent on capital to make the county’s recycling efforts more efficient. This includes updating the recycling facility equipment where all materials collected from recycling dumps are organized, baled and shipped. In 2022, the county also plans to build a new recycling storage facility to store recycled materials and prevent them from degrading.

The remainder of the money was spent on the county pay-as-you-go program, outreach, food waste recycling and composting, repair and maintenance at Summit County Resource Allocation Park, and fundraising operations at Silverthorne recycling center.

Fires

When voters approved 1A, the Buffalo Mountain fire had just spread north of the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods. Henderson said it was a wake-up call to some members of the community.

“The Buffalo Mountain fire happened west of Silverthorne, and I think it really called people’s attention to the potential impacts of a large wildfire,” Henderson said. “And so I think people’s senses heightened and they had a better understanding of what could happen if a wildfire really did break out in Summit County.”

Of the $ 4.4 million accumulated for wildfire mitigation, just over $ 3.4 million has been spent or budgeted, and just over $ 1 million is on reserve.

Approximately $ 1.7 million was spent to support staff from the US Forest Service, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and Colorado State Forest Service – as well as seasonal assistance – to conduct outreach and conduct various fire mitigation projects across the county.

Other funds, particularly $ 328,507, have been spent on forest fire grants for community members who will do their own mitigation efforts around their homes. Almost $ 1.3 million has been spent on tree cutting projects in conjunction with the US Forest Service and approximately $ 84,515 has been spent on advertising.

Public facilities

The fifth and final focus area funded by the Strong Futures Fund is public infrastructure. This area has accumulated a total of $ 7.1 million, of which approximately $ 6.8 million has been spent or budgeted for 2022, of which $ 361,921 is in reserves.

Almost $ 3.8 million has been allocated to institutions in the county, while more than $ 3 million has been spent on child care services.

Summit County Director Scott Vargo oversees this component of Strong Futures. He said some of the projects that received funding include renovations to the Summit County Main Library in Frisco and renovations to the County Emergency Services building.

Vargo said the project would reallocate the former Summit County ambulance space into an improved emergency operations center, reorganize parts of the 911 centre’s administrative and technological space, and create office space for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Group.

Voting measure 1A was passed by Summit County voters in 2018, dedicating funding to five different issues: early childhood education, wildfire mitigation, behavioral health services, recycling and public infrastructure. Since the measure was adopted, 1A – also known as Strong Futures Fund – has accumulated more than $ 39 million.
Jenna deJong / Summit Daily News
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