COVENTRY — The Town Council voted to approve a 100% property tax abatement for day care and other licensed child care centers.
The motion, which passed 5-2 on Monday, comes in the wake of a state bill passed in May that aims to expand preschools and mental health services for children.
One section of the bill allows towns to abate up to 100% of the property taxes for up to five years of any property being used as a licensed child care facility.
Child care centers that are in private homes will only receive the abatement for the square footage used for child care.
Per the legislation, the tax abatement will be applied for tax years beginning on or after Oct. 1.
Coventry Finance Director Amanda Backhaus said that the maximum cost to the town will be just under $22,000.
The council discussed the benefits that the motion would bring to both the child care centers as well as the residents of town.
Vice Chairman Marty Milkovich said that these centers are already operating within slim margins and can’t pay their staff enough, making this a great benefit to them.
“It is important to note that there are parents struggling to find child care, and this may result in more businesses being drawn to our town,” said Councilman Matthew Kyer.
Robyn Gallagher said that it will encourage any child care facilities to obtain property licensing, which will enhance the safety of the children in their care.
Councilman John French was concerned that some child care centers with fewer children might be receiving similar tax breaks. Kyer informed the council the state legislature does have square footage requirements per child.
There were also concerns among the council that there might be some centers that would use this status in order to receive a tax break.
“The benefit of this to our community, I think, outweighs the slim chance that somebody is going to try and manipulate the system,” said Council Chairwoman Lisa Thomas.
Thomas said that while there will be no financial compensation for the loss of revenue to the town, the cost benefit of having small businesses remain and grow in town, as well as allow for local child care, is far greater.
Councilman Jon Hand said it is important to help child care centers get back up and running so that more people can return to the workforce.
“Affordable and safe day care for our kids is the grease that loosens up and allows more people to be in the workforce,” Hand said.
While there were concerns of needing the square footage of some of the centers inspected, Backhaus explained that this information would already be included on their tax returns, which she would like to have submitted every year.
The abatement will last five years, though council members hope that the time period will eventually be extended.
Matthew covers Coventry and Tolland for the Journal Inquirer.