Tofino’s district daycare rates could rise in September.
During a July 11 presentation to council, Tofino’s director of finance Nyla Attiana said the daycare is expected to run a roughly $26,000 deficit this year, which would be covered by taxpayers.
“The daycare is currently being subsidized by property taxation and we certainly want to move away from that,” she said.
She said the daycare currently charges $5.75 an hour and, in order to run the facility on a cost recovery basis, fees would need to rise
She added the daycare has a long waiting list and the hourly system creates scheduling challenges as the daycare has 18 spots available and it is difficult to keep a full slate with children attending at various hours.
“It makes it very challenging to ensure that we have the maximum number of children in the centre on a daily basis,” she said adding if a child attends from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., that would take a full day’s spot unless another child came in from 8-10 a.m. or 2-5 p.m.
She added provincial subsidies only kick in for children attending four hours or more in a day.
Attiana proposed nixing the hourly system and offering a half-day or full-day option.
Under her suggested fee structure, half-days would be offered 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 years or older. Full day rates would be $68.40 for a toddler and $57 for a child 3 or over.
Attiana said the day-rate discount was designed to encourage full-day registrations to ease staff scheduling.
She added a sibling discount rate of $0.50 per sibling would be eliminated.
She suggested implementing the new rates on September 1.
Coun. Dorothy Baert spoke against the idea and asked why the daycare needed to be run on a cost-recovery basis.
“I’m concerned about the impacts,” she said adding a “two-tiered system” was coming into play.
“We have a very uneven kind of landscape for economic wages…I just hate to see us become where only people in management and in unions can afford daycare.”
She added council gives out community grants and tax exemptions to other facets of the community and suggested daycare users should get a break as well.
Mayor Josie Osborne said it was tough to determine whether tax dollars should be used to subsidize childcare and questioned putting the higher fees in place so quickly.
“Six weeks to let people know? I’m just watching what happens when we put a ‘Stop’ sign up and seriously, to tell somebody that their child care costs are going to go up 15 to 20 per cent…we’re going to get a backlash; there’s no doubt about it,” she said.
Attiana said the rates were in line with private day care fees in Tofino and September was chosen because that is the time most children head out of daycare and into school.
Council’s tune had changed a bit when the issue was discussed again on July 19 and the rate increases moved closer to reality. Read about it in this week’s Westerly News on newsstands now.