Bailey Daycare Alternative Budget Proposed

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Sunday, October 5, 2014, 11:39 am
Alice Dreger

The major reason given by the City Manager for the planned closure of the Bailey daycare is budgetary. Now a finance expert who is also a resident of Bailey has proposed to City Council an alternative budget that could, she says, keep the daycare running.

At the last work session of Council, on September 23, immediately after citizens spoke for over two hours in support of keeping the daycare open, City Manager George Lahanas took the floor to say, “We have tough decisions to make for this community. We have tough economic times.” Lahanas went on to name budgetary cuts in the area of emergency services as well as extraordinary expenses incurred from last year’s difficult winter. He named, for example, a sinkhole that cost two hundred thousand dollars to fix.

According to recent estimates from the City, the Bailey daycare is losing somewhere on the order of $90-100,000 per year. This figure includes the City charging about 80% of the cost of maintaining the aging Bailey Community Center (formerly the Bailey School) to the daycare—something Bailey residents say is a disingenuous way to account the expense, given a failure to more actively seek programming for the Community Center as well as a failure to actively advertise the daycare. Budget forecasts also are grim because the City’s decision to close the daycare has led to many families leaving. (For more on this, see our previous report.)

Miriam Schwartz-Ziv is a Bailey resident, mother, and faculty member in the Department of Finance at MSU. Schwartz-Ziv has sent a detailed analysis and proposed budget to Council that, she says, could be used to save the daycare, if the City has an interest in enacting a rescue plan.

Schwartz-Ziv’s proposal calls for an increase of daycare rates of 8%. She says, “the parents [have] said they had no problem with that.” According to her figures, this would generate an additional revenue of $39,690.

Schwartz-Ziv also recommends opening more spots for infants. At the work session of Council, Tim McCaffrey, East Lansing’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Arts (the division that currently oversees the daycare) told Council, “Our waiting list is dominated by infant age children.” He said there had been 25 families on that waiting list.

Matching the opening of an infant classroom, which could generate a profit of $21,388 according to Schwartz-Ziv, with an 8% rate increase, the daycare could come within about $2,000 of meeting the projected fiscal year 2015 loss of $63,753 estimated by McCaffrey on August 29.

I asked McCaffrey if he has considered Schwartz-Ziv’s alternative budget. He responded by noting that, at the work session of Council, he was asked to provide more information along the lines of opening another infant room, so he is looking into that. He told me, “We will consider Miriam's suggestions as well as our staff suggestions as part of the follow up work we are preparing for City Council.”

One thing Schwartz-Ziv and McCaffrey appear to agree on is that Parks & Rec is the wrong unit to be overseeing the daycare, at least in the absence of staff specifically hired for that purpose. McCaffrey and Lahanas have repeatedly said that they do not consider Parks & Rec to be currently equipped to appropriately manage a daycare, especially one with young infants.

Schwartz-Ziv told me, “"I think the general agreement is that the program should not be run by the Park and Recreation division. The sooner we find an alternative model, the better.”

Coming up at ELi: An interview with Nora Thompson who was until August the director of the Bailey daycare.

(Photo courtesy of City of East Lansing.)


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