City of Aspen receives bid for child care provider

The city of Aspen has received an offer from a prospective childcare provider to fill the void left earlier this month by a longtime local business that operated in the government-owned yellow brick building municipal.

The national research was published last month as a request for proposals on BidNet, a bidding platform for governments.

The city had no luck attracting interested parties in March when it put out a request for proposals from licensed child care providers in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The city is aiming to find an operator to take over four classrooms at Yellow Brick this fall, according to deputy city manager Diane Foster.

Aspen Playgroup, which served more than 40 children and was owned by Kadi Kuhlenberg, closed on June 3 after reaching an impasse with the city over new lease terms.

A citizen advisory board that oversees the city’s taxpayer-funded child care program, known as Kids First, decided last summer that Playgroup Aspen and another provider, Aspen Mountain Tots, should operate five days a week instead of four.

The terms of their leases were amended in 2021 and were to come into effect in September 2023.

The mandate was to increase the capacity of child care offerings.

Kids First Council is following guidance from Aspen City Council, which in 2021 made increasing childcare capacity one of its priorities, recognizing that without access to affordable early education, parents cannot contribute to the local workforce and economy.

Yet the early childhood education industry faces serious problems with low teacher salaries, stringent state and federal regulations, and locally no affordable housing.

The difficult landscape is probably one of the main reasons why the city received only one offer from an interested supplier.

Foster said the critical needs to increase child care capacity in Aspen are wages and housing, which are hard nuts to crack and which the city government continues to work on with dedicated sales tax revenue.

In 1989, city voters passed a 0.45% sales tax, 55% of which goes to the Kids First program and the rest to affordable housing. The tax was renewed by voters in 2008 and runs until 2040; it has generated $34.9 million since 1994, which goes as far back as the city’s financial system.

Generating just under $2 million a year, most of the revenue goes towards financial aid for families, tuition reduction and other grants, as well as program support, such as quality improvement efforts and resource teachers.

Foster said the city wouldn’t want to take money out of Family Financial Assistance to raise teachers’ salaries or subsidize Yellow Brick’s rent to $1 a year so providers raise their salaries.

She said she could not release the identity of the bidder until a childcare committee made up of herself, Kids First staff and board members is convened. this week to consider the proposal.

“There’s only one, so let’s hope they qualify,” she said.

Foster said Kids First staff have approached child care providers in the Valley to reassess their interest in moving to the Yellow Brick.

As for the sole bidder on BidNet, Foster said she expects a decision to be made later this week.

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