The effort to bring a new childcare center to Great Bend is another step closer to becoming a reality, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden and Golden Belt Community Foundation Executive Director Christy Tustin learned Thursday.
The Great Bend-based foundation is among 26 Kansas nonprofit organizations sharing over $4 million in Community Service Tax Credits to improve and enhance fundraising efforts for education, health care, childcare and housing projects. The announcement was made by Gov. Laura Kelly Thursday afternoon.
The foundation is eligible for $200,000 in tax credits. The goal is the construction of a 4,100-square-foot building that will house Barton County’s Childcare Development Center in Great Bend.
“Our major need right now is serving the childcare needs of Barton County,” Hayden said. They have identified the shortage of childcare, along with workforce and housing shortages, as major drags on growth.
The project is a joint venture between the foundation and GBED, Hayden said. They see this part of a broader effort to make the area more competitive.
What is the plan?
Hayden said they have estimated the cost of the facility at between $600,000-700,000. They also have preliminary building plans and are eyeing some possible locations, and hope to break ground early next year.
Because of the lack of existing structures that meet their needs, along with the stringent Kansas Department of Health and Environment requirements, Hayden said it make more sense to build from scratch.
“Building costs are just so astronomical,” Hayden said. So she started looking for funding options.
“This just fell into our laps,” Hayden said. GBED had been working on all fronts when this opportunity came along.
“This is just a big first step in the funding,” Tustin said. The credits will generate up to $280,000, and they will seek grants and, for a final push if needed, a community fundraiser.
Tustin echoed the need for childcare as a key part of a larger effort. Workforce and other needs are all in the mix, she said.
Not reinventing the wheel
GBED has worked closely with Garden City. The Finney County Childcare and Early Learning Network board was formed in 2019 and began work in identifying spaces that could accommodate childcare, and the group has been awarded tax credits to help expand services.
“That model really spoke to us,” Hayden said. It was a way of creating a sustainable and affordable option, two things Hayden saw as crucial for any local effort.
Once built, the new center will operate as a separate nonprofit under GBED. It will have its own director.
“However, the whole mission is about more than one building,” Hayden said. “This is not a one and done,” she said, noting there could be facilities in other county communities down the road.
And, “this is not about competition,” Tustin said. Instead, it is intended to work with other providers since the need is so great.
“We want this to be a network,” she said. They want to be a partner with other providers and share resources.
“It’s not just a Great Bend center. We do view this as countywide,” Hayden said. This is this is a focus for rural communities all across the state and around the nation as well.
“With over 700 children in the county needing childcare, we see this childcare network as a great opportunity to better support our community’s needs and our businesses’ needs," Hayden said. "By adding more childcare to the area we can allow for more parents to get back into the workforce, which is vitally important in our quest for growth.”
What are tax credits?
The CSP program provides 50% or 70% tax credits to qualified rural communities, with the total based on population. Technically, Great Bend qualifies for the 50%, but Tustin said there is a chance the foundation could meet the 70% threshold.
Here’s how the credits work.
At the 70% level, a donor making a $1,000 gift in a rural community receives a $700 tax credit when they file their state taxes, making the net cost to the donor only $300. It is basically a discount towards their state tax liability, Tustin said.
“I have donors who look for tax credits,” she said. For some, they are a better option for giving.
Hayden said they have already had several local residents step and say they would purchase the credits. “That really helped our cause.”
Of the total being awarded, $1 million were for childcare and early childhood development projects. It is a highly competitive program with winners chosen via a score-based selection process, Tustin said.
This year, 26 of the requested 55 projects received funding.