Pleasanton School Board Increases Horizon Fees to Help Keep Child Care Program Afloat | New
The newly increased fees should help keep the doors open at Horizon Early Education Center, but an increase in attendance is also needed to support the long-running daycare program, according to a staff presentation at a recent board meeting. administration of the Pleasanton Unified School District.
Fees for families with children enrolled in Horizon will now increase for all age levels, from $ 1,920 to $ 2,300 per month, with preference given to full-time students. Part-time fees are now $ 1,100 to $ 1,600 per month, depending on whether the student attends two or three days per week.
The fee increases were unanimously approved at the August 12 board meeting to avoid layoffs of staff from the program, which has offered reduced and subsidized services to eligible families for more than 30 years. More recently, however, Horizon has struggled to stay afloat due to declining attendance and revenue.
“It’s not sustainable if he loses money year to year, and that’s the business the school district wants to be in,” said the board chair, Joan Laursen, that night. “We cannot cannibalize another program to support this one.”
In May, district staff recommended cutting six classified positions at Horizon – five full-time preschool positions, including a senior preschool educator, plus a preschool aide – citing the low enrollment rate. and annual budget deficits, as well as an opportunity to save approximately $ 470,000 based on staff allocations.
With the pandemic impacting the availability of child care services, parents implored the district to consider alternatives to the layoffs at Horizon. The board agreed to suspend the layoffs and asked staff for updated information on the program’s creditworthiness.
Horizon is licensed to accommodate up to 26 children, but currently has approximately 16 full-time participants and has not reached enrollment capacity in the past three years. Since the district must maintain the required staffing ratios on a daily basis, but not all children are enrolled full time, less revenue has been generated in recent years. To run the program with maximum capacity, staff said the district would need 8-9 staff.
With increased tuition fees and 20 children attending full-time for 12 months, Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Ahmad Sheikholeslami said the program would generate around $ 550,000 in annual revenue but still fall short of breaking even. due to annual expenses estimated at $ 600,000.
“If we could support an average of 24 students … it could close that gap,” Sheikholeslami added, adding that the program “would likely also require additional hourly staff to bridge that gap.”
“In the short term we are not there yet but I think, given what we are seeing with Kids Club, that we will get there with the return of our registrations,” said Sheikholeslami.
Salaries and benefits are among the main cost drivers for Horizon and will likely remain a concern going forward.
“Depending on salary movements and how our benefit costs evolve, we might consider annual salary increases of 4-6%, which is the main driver of our costs for this program,” said Sheikholeslami on the board of directors.
Income has been tough in recent years, but “these numbers are improving,” in part because of an account created by parents PUSD to accept community donations and company funds, staff said. . About $ 22,000 in total has been raised so far and is expected to be transferred to the district this week, according to Sheikholeslami, but there is “no consistent data showing that the district can count on these donations each year.”
During several city and community meetings in June, parents gave the district feedback and recommendations to revitalize the Horizon program, including increasing fees over local market rates, increasing on-time enrollment full with a “multi-pronged strategy”, and the marketing and operation of Horizon and STEAM as a “comprehensive program from birth to kindergarten”.
In addition to increasing tuition fees, staff also recommended continuing to enroll infants and toddlers, hiring staff, and improving marketing and advertising to support the program.
Administrator Kelly Mokashi asked, “Would creating a stronger link between Horizon and STEAM help revenue?” “
Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Julio Hernandez responded, “If the individual programs can hold up that would be our goal, but if not… another program would help us.
When STEAM initially started, “one of the ideas was that we were going to be able to offer this,” said Laursen, but “we haven’t seen an influx of children of our employees into the STEAM program.”
“If this is a benefit to our employees, something that we could use as a recruiting tool… that would be a good thing,” said Laursen. “And it might be worth being a little bit in the red as it would be a recruiting tool, but we can’t run the program in the red for very long.”
Administrator Mark Miller said he wanted to “see the real intentions of benefiting employees … by making sure we have a clear path from Horizon to STEAM.”
“But we don’t get any state revenue for doing this; we’re doing it right now because out of the goodness of our hearts, quite honestly and as long as we can pay for it… it takes some thought,” Miller mentioned.
The board asked if discounts for employees or families with multiple children enrolled in Horizon were being considered, to which Hernandez said the district “has discussed many options and variables.”
“We kept landing on the flat rate and looked at that, and we really needed to see how we can maintain a stand-alone program, and that kind of partial charge would impact our ability to do that,” said Hernandez.