The cost of raising a family in Tofino just went up.
Tofino’s municipal council is no longer willing to subsidize childcare through taxation and has raised its Children’s Community Centre’s rates to bring revenue in line with costs.
The district run childcare centre previously charged $5.75 an hour but, under that model, was expected to rack up a $26,000 loss that would be paid for by taxpayers. This hourly rate has been scrapped and replaced with a full-day or half-day option.
Half days will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. and parents will be charged $42 for a toddler and $35 for any child 3 and above. Full days will cost $68.40 for toddlers and $57 for children 3 and above.
The increased rates took effect Sept. 1.
Tofino’s municipal council was initially hesitant to adopt the higher rates when the district’s director of financial services Nyla Attiana pitched them in July but, after some deliberation, council came around on the idea and unanimously approved the new rates last month.
Mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News the increase was needed to keep up with staff wages, which make up 93 per cent of the daycare’s budget.
“The new rates permit the daycare to continue to provide incredibly high quality childcare by trained and dedicated staff, to maintain the building and yard space it is operated in, and to maintain and replace equipment,” Osborne said. “Even if the rates had not been raised, the daycare would of course have continued to operate with excellent service.”
She said council considered running the daycare at a loss and subsidizing its operation through taxation but ultimately decided revenue neutrality was the right path to take.
“This was not an easy decision to make, particularly with knowledge of what a living wage in this region is, what the costs of childcare are, and how challenging it is in the entire region with a huge shortage of childcare spots,” she said.
“Further, it is also not lost on me that the people who are the most affected by rate increases of any kind are also usually the people that have the least voice, in this case perhaps due to the simple fact that it takes everything they’ve got to make ends meet in Tofino as it is.
“Although this rate increase may not overly impact all families that use the daycare, it doesn’t make it fair or easy to accept for those families that are struggling to make ends meet. When your monthly childcare bill approaches your monthly income, as several parents explained to me, it really impacts decisions about working, about undertaking education, and about quality of life.”
Osborne said she reached out to the families that would be impacted by the rates.
“I would characterize most of the feedback I received as ‘inevitable acceptance’ tinged with a lack of feeling of empowerment about childcare struggles in general,” she said.
“This was also accompanied by critical and, in my opinion, valid feedback about the summer timing of the district’s decision-making and the fact that we waited five years to raise fees, which has resulted in more of a ‘hike’ than a small increase in the order of inflation rates.”
She said staff wages increase each year and the childcare’s rates will increase annually to avoid another large ‘hike.’
“An automatic annual increase to daycare rates has been applied so we maintain pace with wage increases, remembering that 93% of the daycare’s budget goes to wages,” she said. “While no one like increases in rates, a small increase each year is easier to prepare for than a hike every five years.”
She said subsidizing childcare should not be done at the municipal level and she encourages locals to lobby the provincial and federal governments for an affordable childcare plan.