Child-care advocate tells Aspen council of increasing need among parents | AspenTimes.com

Child-care advocate tells Aspen council of increasing need among parents

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The director of Aspen’s Kids First child care program told the City Council Tuesday that with more families needing help with child care as a result of the recession, the program may have to reduce the number of parents who receive financial aid.

“We’re going to have to say no to folks who we haven’t in the past,” Shirley Ritter said.

News of the possible reduction comes despite an influx of federal dollars to child care agencies in Colorado, the result of increased recognition about the importance of publicly subsidized child care.

That money, however, does not help the financial picture of Kids First amid increasing needs of child-care users.

“As you can imagine with the economy, we’ve seen tremendous increases in demands for financial aid for families,” she said. “They need help paying for child care.”

The organization is trying to come up with cost-cutting measures to offset those expenses.

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Ritter’s statements came as the City Council continued for the second consecutive night its discussions on the city budget, which it will decide on next month.

Most departments that have presented have expressed optimism in their finances for 2011, projecting increased ending balances in their budget accounts through 2020.

The public works department said it expects 1 percent increases every year from its hydroelectric utilities, which operate from Maroon Creek and Ruedi Reservoir. Hoping that the City Council will approve its proposed Castle Creek hydropower project, the department said it would gain in revenues from that as well. At the same time, it could purchase less coal power from a Nebraska power authority.

The public works budget is shaping up nicely for next year, department head Phil Overeynder said. The department is planning several capital projects for the 2011 fiscal year, including a $190,000 water main replacement.

“For 2011, we actually have a pretty good idea of what’s in the pipeline,” he said.

The city plans on instituting wage increases for employees, who have gone without one for the past two years. It’s planning a nearly 12 percent increase in wages, taking this year’s $3.2 million in salary expenses up to $3.6 million.

Part of those wage benefits could take the form of better health benefits. The city currently pays 82 percent of the health care for its employees.

“That’s actually pretty typical in the workplace,” said Don Taylor, the city’s finance director.

The optimism in the city’s planning is tempered, though, by three initiatives on the November ballot, amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, which governments and tax districts say will have devastating effects on their ability to raise and spend money.

Mayor Mick Ireland said during Monday’s meeting that he didn’t expect those initiatives to survive the vote.

“They’re not gonna pass,” he said.

ahedge@aspentimes.com