The Cabarrus County Schools raised rates for its Kids:Plus child care program this month to help address a $400,000 deficit in the program, which serves about 1,000 students.
The deficit occurred when the elementary instructional day was lengthened by 30 minutes, which resulted in fewer billable hours for Kids:Plus, Jim Amendum, associate superintendent for administrative services, said in a recent memo to the Cabarrus County Board of Education.
Although most employee work hours were left intact to preserve benefits, no new employees have been hired, and some cuts have been made through attrition, Amendum said. But that wasn't enough to plug the shortfall, he said.
The program also reduced field trips and made savings in snacks, Amendum told the school board.
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Kids:Plus has 90 employees, including office staff. The program offers before- and after-school care at all 18 elementary schools and operates only before-school care at the six middle schools.
Also contributing to the deficit, he said, was an attempt to accommodate the wishes of teachers by changing billing from a flat fee, regardless of hours or days a child attends, to a part-time (day-by-day) fee structure.
Most child care centers charge a flat rate, regardless of the number of days or hours a child shows up in a given week.
"Normally you pay for a slot whether you show up or not," said Ronnye Boone, Cabarrus County Schools public relations director.
Part-time care will no longer be provided except to Cabarrus County Schools employees.
The rate increases that took effect March 1 will generate an additional $137,700, and a summer program rate increase in June will add an additional $7,000 , Amendum outlined in his memo.
Parent M. Washington said fee increases last year and now this month are forcing him to look elsewhere for care for his 7-year-old son.
"Quite a few other parents are upset about this, too," Washington, who teaches special education in the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said in a phone interview.
In a letter to the Observer and Cabarrus school leaders, Washington said the decision to raise rates "profoundly saddens me and many other families trying to make ends meet."
Boone said, "It is a big deal, but a change we felt we had to make. Probably the lesser of two not-good choices."
Kids:Plus is self-funded, she said. "So it's a business. It operates off the tuition that families pay for those services, and the program was operating with a $400,000 deficit."
The program also is cutting $31,000 in snack expenses and using $250,000 of its fund balance against the deficit.
Total savings amount to $425,700.
Next fiscal year, the program is looking to charge only flat fees, with one rate for morning care, one rate for afternoon care and one rate for combined morning and evening care. That switch from day-by-day fees could increase revenues by $700,000, depending on enrollment, Amendum said in his memo.
Also next fiscal year, the system could consider closing unprofitable sites, hiring new employees at fewer than six hours and thus with no benefits, and reducing the work force beginning with newest employees.