Local parents might be forced to dig a little deeper into their pockets come September as Tofino’s daycare fees are set to rise.
The district-run daycare centre currently charges a flat hourly rate of $5.75 an hour but it’s not collecting enough to recover its costs. The facility is expected to run a roughly $26,000 deficit this year and local taxpayers will foot the bill.
Along with making cost recovery impossible, Tofino’s director of financial services Nyla Attiana believes the hourly rate structure complicates scheduling for children and centre staff.
Attiana pitched a new fee structure during Tofino’s July 11 Committee of the Whole meeting that would replace the hourly rate with a full-day or half-day option.
Half-days would run from 8:30-12:30 or 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and would cost $42 for a toddler and $35 for a child 3 or older. Full day rates would run $68.40 for toddlers and $57 for children 3 or over.
Tofino’s municipal council was initially hesitant towards approving these new rates but seemed warmer to the idea when it was discussed again at July 19’s regular meeting.
Mayor Josie Osborne said a tour of the facility, and conversations with parents, led her to believe the new rates were necessary and supported.
“Nobody likes to see increased rates but, I think, people understand the principle of revenue neutrality and they understand why the municipality would be considering this,” she said.
She noted 93 per cent of the daycare’s budget goes to the centre’s staff.
“That is the point that people understand the most,” she said. “The rates need to rise because we need to support good staff.”
She added the higher rates would bring the district’s daycare in line with private daycare providers.
“Council has made a number of suggestions in the past about not wanting to compete with local businesses and we are offering a service that is also offered by private operators so, having a roughly even playing field sits well with me,” she said.
Coun. Dorothy Baert did not like the idea of locking the district’s daycare into a 100 per cent cost recovery model.
Coun. Greg Blanchette shared Baert’s concern and said the cost recovery system should be considered in future budget discussions.
“There’s no deep philosophical reason why a childcare centre has to recover all of its costs,” he said. “I think that’s a very legitimate expense to put on the taxpayers of the district.”
Coun. Cathy Thicke supported the increased rates and said the daycare’s costs would need to be paid from somewhere.
“As a parent in this community who raised three children, I didn’t receive any subsidy from the government for raising my children while choosing to stay home,” she said.
“We can’t offer everything for free. Somebody has to pay for these things.”
Osborne said local governments should not be expected to subsidize child care.
“I view childcare as really part of our education system,” she said. “This is something that firmly belongs in the provincial or federal government.”
Coun. Al Anderson agreed.
“The subsidization of daycare is better at the provincial and federal levels. They have more tax options available to them,” he said.
“Municipalities have experienced so much in the way of downloading over the decades from those levels of government that I just have a philosophical disagreement with taking on things that, I think, are better funded from those levels of government.”
Council is expected to make a final decision on the new rate structure on Aug. 23 and, if approved, the new fees would take effect Sept. 1.
Osborne said the district must ensure locals understand the increased rates are needed to support staff wages.
“The way that we communicate about the centre and rate changes is really key,” she said.
“It’s really important that the community understands the quality and level of service that’s provided by the centre and the wages that help support the workers who are there; that’s really the biggest reason why the rates need to be changed.”