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Kids programs funded after election loss

Alison MillerVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY Kathy Kunis took a minute from changing a diaper Tuesday to say shes very upset by Eagle Countys decision to fund early-childhood programs.The voters turned it down in November I turned it down and now they have funded their plan anyway, said Kunis, who has run Rumpelstilskin Preschool in Avon for the last 25 years. I and most of my parents just dont think the government has any place in child care or preschool.The county commissioners Tuesday approved $822,759 in funding for early childhood programs such as college reimbursement for day-care providers, health and dental assistance and education, teen parent resources and more affordable day care.These efforts from the county, other governments and businesses will be an extraordinary commitment to our children, County Commissioner Arn Menconi said. Eagle County believes that our children are our future, and were going to work with the entire community to establish much-needed services in health care, day care and support for families and children with special needs.As part of a supplemental budget, the commissioners funded the programs until 2008. Businesses and individuals are expected to raise $354,810 of that money to match the countys contribution.

But parents should take responsibility for the care of their own children, Kunis argued.They are taking our taxes to provide a free ride for others, she said. Somebody has to pay for it eventually. I dont think people, even parents, should have to pay for other peoples children.Not everybody has the money to pay for the high cost of child care and medical expenses for their children, countered Kate Forinash, director of Health and Human Services.The reality in Eagle County is that we need to take a whole community approach to caring for children the way they deserve to be, Forinash said. Eagle County is about to implement a groundbreaking coordinated community approach to creating a network of the most needed services in the community.Employers will soon be approached by a county team assigned to study the child care and health needs of employees, Forinash said.Employers will also be asked to contribute to the early childhood initiative.Recognizing when the free market and the needs of a community dont strike a balance, I think its imperative that government and the private sector combine efforts and find workable solutions, County Commissioner Sara Fisher said. Theres interdependency here and if we want to live in healthy communities, each one of us has an obligation to make that possible for the other guy.Applications for grants have already been submitted to Vail Valley Cares and United Way, Forinash said.Donations have already been made, Forinash said.She hopes more will continue to donate as much as they can. Even $50 would help us get underway in our matching, Forinash said. We still have so much to do, but this is a very exciting day for young children in Eagle County and their families.The county encompasses a sliver of the Roaring Fork Valley, including El Jebel and part of Basalt.


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