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Park City Council dives into childcare funding proposal

As proposed, the funding would help serve nearly 200 children who live in 84060. It would also provide care to 40 children who live outside of Park City, but whose parents work in town.
Adobe Sto
As proposed, the funding would help serve nearly 200 children who live in 84060. It would also provide care to 40 children who live outside of Park City, but whose parents work in town.

Park City childcare advocates have put a first-of-its-kind proposal to city hall.

Early Childhood Alliance Director Kristen Schultz told the Park City Council at its meeting Thursday that a little over $2 million from the city could fund daycare for over 200 children for one year.

Schultz said the program would close the affordability gap in Park City’s childcare market by offering families money for tuition on a sliding income sale.

A little over $1 million would be used to help families that make less than the area median income. The 2022 Summit County AMI for a three-person household is approximately $120,000.

For example, a three-person household making about $96,000 a year (80% AMI) would receive a monthly stipend of over $1,100, to help pay for a $1,700 tuition, which Schultz said is the monthly average for care in town.

The objective is that families making less than the median income pay no more than 7% (per child) of their income towards childcare.

For families earning between 100% and 120% of AMI, the goal would be to pay 10% of income towards childcare. Between 120% and 140%, the family contribution is targeted at 12%. Families making more than 140% of AMI would be ineligible for a stipend.

A tuition stipend estimator can be found here.

“The other thing that I really think is very important for our community as a whole is to make sure that we are accessing the federal funds that are available," Schultz said at the meeting. "In our needs assessment, you’ll see that we think only 10% of the eligible families are connected to these subsidies. And we want to make sure that our community is getting its fair share.”

Utah’s Department of Workforce Services manages the childcare subsidies from the federal government. Payments are made directly to care providers, and they vary based upon the age of the child, type of provider, and the amount of care required.

Schultz said reaching those funds helps with affordability, but one problem remains — the government subsidy is useless with unlicensed childcare providers. According to an Early Childhood Alliance survey, roughly a third of Park City parents with children younger than age 6 use an informal caretaker.

In an effort to create more licensed providers that can accept government subsidies, Schultz proposes offering financial incentives.

Because there is time and expense associated with becoming licensed, the proposal calls for a bonus of $5,000 to each newly-licensed family provider within Park City. It also helps solve the lack of childcare providers.

Tony Tyler, who sits on the board of nonprofit provider PC Tots, said at the meeting that their current wait time for parents is 18 months.

“I don’t think PC Tots is the be-all-end-all solution for childcare in Park City or Summit County as a whole,” Tyler said. “We’re a part of the solution, and we want to be part of the solution, and we are interested in expanding… I think we’re just as happy supporting the other providers here, because there should be a diversity of choices for people that live and work in Park City.”

Schultz has also penciled in over $350,000 for a $200 monthly bonus for each child under 2 years old that providers care for. She said that’s specifically because infant care is typically the hardest to find and most expensive to provide.

As proposed, the funding would help serve nearly 200 children who live in 84060. It would also provide care to 40 children who live outside of Park City, but whose parents work in town.

With COVID-19 stimulus running out later this year, Schultz said many families will fall off a financial cliff without help from the local government.

“The United States Department of Treasury did a whole report on the economics of the childcare industry, and Janet Yellen is like, ‘This is the poster child for market failure,’” Schultz said. “If you are wealthy, you can afford high-quality childcare. And if you are not, you simply have very few choices. So if we continue down this path, and don’t kind of recognize it as a public good, it will become a luxury item that wealthy families will have access to, and the equitable divides in our community will only get worse.”

Details of the funding proposal were laid out during a study session with the council, in which questions were asked but no action was taken.

Later in the meeting when discussing the budget for next fiscal year, Councilmember Becca Gerber asked to earmark $1.5 million for childcare. Councilmembers Ryan Dickey, Tana Toly and Jeremy Rubell all declined, saying they needed more time to digest the proposal. Councilmember Max Doilney was not present.

State code requires city governments to adopt a tentative budget during their first meeting in May. City manager Matt Dias said the budget can be changed at any time under the council’s discretion.

A city council work session to talk more about funding local childcare is scheduled for June.