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Denver voters to decide on tax hike to pay for preschool program in city

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DENVER -- In November, Denver voters will decide whether to approve a small sales tax increase, which could have a big impact on the lives of young children.

The Denver City Council has approved a ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by .15%, 15 cents for every $100 spent, in order to expand funding for the Denver Preschool Program.

For the past seven years, preschool has been a real option for every four year old in Denver, despite the rising cost of tuition.

"$800 to $650 a month was something I couldn't afford on my own income,” Said JoMarie Garcia. “And the Denver Preschool Program was able to help me."

As a single mother, working full-time, Garcia was able to send her daughter, Taeja, to preschool thanks to tuition assistance according to her income. Two years later Taeja is thriving.

"It's meant so much,” Garcia said. “This past year she was in kindergarten and she was spending a lot of time helping the teachers with other kids, showing them things she already knew."

Since 2007, the preschool program has helped nearly 32,000 kids attend preschool thanks to $55 million in tuition support. But the program doesn't just help low income families, it's also invested $8 million in quality funding for all participating preschools.

“That can be for professional development, for classroom materials and equipment,” said Pamela Harris, President of Mile High Montessori. “So that all children who are in that classroom actually benefit."

The sales tax increase would extend the benefit back into the summer months, after being cut back during the recession. It will also help offset the rising cost of tuition, and fund more full-day options meaning more kids will have the opportunity Taeja did.

“That's why I'm hoping people will vote for this and take that into consideration,” Garcia said. “So all (families) have that benefit."