Park City Council pressed on need for childcare funding
More than a dozen people called on the Park City Council Thursday to put money towards local childcare services amid an affordability crisis.
Park City resident Bob Jackaud said the need for childcare pales in comparison to other issues the city debates, like parking and pickleball.
With a new baby coming into his life this fall, he said he’s starting to feel the financial crunch, similar to his friends who have left Park City to find a more affordable place to live. He said it’s crucial that the city do something to help families.
“This is not a trivial topic. I mean, you have people literally crying for help, begging for help right now," Jackaud said. “We watch families walk out the door every single day. And it’s just hard to see, like you watch your friends leave.”
The need for affordable childcare has been an issue for years but has become a bigger topic recently, with federal stimulus drying out, forcing local providers to increase tuition. A number of parents have reported that their monthly tuition bills are doubling.
On Thursday, many told the council to support a proposal called Park City Cares About Kids, which calls for roughly $2 million from the city to fund care for over 100 children for one year.
That plan was crafted by the Early Childhood Alliance, which is part of the Park City Community Foundation. Joel Zarrow, who is president and CEO of the foundation, discussed the need at the meeting Thursday.
“We’re at an inflection point here," Zarrow said. "Without your action, we will fall off that cliff. We will not be known for how we care for our most vulnerable. So please, do the right thing, help out, just as everybody else is.”
Moe Hickey, a Park City resident and executive director of the nonprofit Voices for Utah Children, provided more perspective about the crisis.
“Utah is dead last in access and affordability for childcare, and Summit County is the last county in the state of Utah. This is a critical issue, probably the most critical issue we’re hearing across the state and in this community," Hickey said.
"If we can address it properly and put funding behind it — which has been requested — it’s probably the most equitable policy decision we can make to the bring the community together. This is affecting everybody at all ends of the economic spectrum.”
Planning commissioner John Kenworthy also spoke during public comment. He said the proposed Homestake affordable housing project lacks a childcare facility, and needs one. The council is scheduled to finalize Homestake, which has a legal occupancy of over 500 residents, next month.
The public comment about childcare came shortly after the council discussed spending more than $50 million on capital projects for recreation. Part or all of that money could come from a voter-approved bond.
The city is looking at funding a new pickleball facility in Quinn’s Junction, upgrades at the MARC and ice arena, and renovating the City Park building used for summer camps.
Councilmember Becca Gerber expressed hesitation about putting that much money towards recreation when there are other big needs in the community.
“We are getting to a point where we’re going to have to make some harder decisions about what we need and what we want," Gerber said. "And we can do a [general obligation] bond, and that would provide great state-of-the-art recreational facilities for our community. At the same point in time, we’re digging into resources that we could also use for other needs, such as housing or childcare.”
The council is scheduled to be briefed on the Park City Cares About Kids proposal at their meeting on May 11.