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City should stay in child care business

Original post made on Apr 21, 2009

Should the city of Menlo Park stay in the child care business for toddlers and preschool children as well as those who need a place after school?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

All the Childcare programs west of Highway 101 should not be subsidized at all. I attended a City Council meeting where one mother complained that after completing her expensive home remodel she could not afford to pay more for child care. So people living in townhomes, condos, and apartments should be subsidizing people who live in $2M+ homes? I don't think so. In most circumstances one would be hard-pressed to justify providing welfare for the rich.

If people can't afford to live in Menlo Park then they should move. With the exception of public schools (K-12) Parents need to pay for the upbringing of their children and not expect the city or state to do so.

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

We are very good, in this country, at distinguishing between public and private education.
We advocate public education for every young person, are willing to pay for it out of our taxes, education often taking over 50% of the annual municipal budget in many parts fo the US, and, for those that can afford it, there is private education. And, private education often makes scholarships available for those whose incomes can't meet the financial requirements but whose children are deemed eligible.

Why is child care different, and such a problem? Menlo Park isn't in the education business.
Why is it in the child care business? Isn't child care the beginning of institutional education?
A step prior to and preparation for nursery, or kindergarten kinds of classes? Why isn't Menlo Park's child care facility operated the same was as the swimming pool? Only this time, the council and administration may wish to do the public due diligence that was lacking during the selection of the prior, sole-source service provider. Probably a good idea, but bad execution.

Actually, if I had my druthers, I would place the responsibility for child care within the jurisdiction of public education, and not keep it within the city government. Private child care, like all private education, has no place within government.

What's going on now will continue to be contested continuously. That's just bad decision-making, or worse, evasion and procrastination over coming to grips and resolving this issue on the basis of principle rather than expediency.

And as a final point, please note the sudden tendency among more and more cities, Oakland among them, who are looking at out-sourcing staffing needs, police services, and other administrative functions due to the greater economic pressures imposed by hiring, staffing and their subsequent costs. At a meta-level, these are all of a part.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2009 at 4:46 am

The City certainly should pull out of child care except in the Belle Haven area. This was instituted during the Dolan era, should have never been started and has been a darling of the residentialist movement. This was about the only agenda item on which I agreed with horrible council led by Jellins and company, but they were right to try and get out of this.

Its a Union issue and the Union should not be dictating, but they certainly have managed to do so on this issue. In any case no subsidies from city funds for any of this.

The Pool contract will come up for re-visiting sometime, and this time it must be an open bid situation. At a very minimum the City should be able to get $300,000 per year for a lease on its facilities.

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Posted by Angry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I suggest the comments posted in response to last week's article be reviewed by the editor who wrote this Viewpoint in support of City-funded child care. The vast majority opposed strongly any taxpayer dollars continuing to go for the child care of a privileged few. I'm with them.

According to Viewpoint, the city will pay $206,421 from its general fund in the current fiscal year to cover the gap between the cost to run the center, and fees received from parents. Including overhead, the city says the final cost is $337,111. Why aren't parents paying the entire cost for the care of their own children! Why does anyone think that it is the role of the city to keep people from leaving who get priced out! If they can't afford to take care of their own kids here, move. Don't expect the rest of us living and working here and paying to raise our own children to subsidize them. Crazy.

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Posted by end subsidized care
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2009 at 3:28 pm

The editorial doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? It shuffles around facts with as much determination as a child trying to camouflage uneaten vegetables and seems to conclude that MP should continue to offer subsidized child care because that's what the city has been doing for quite a while.

Puzzled? Try googling "Steve Schmidt" and "Menlo Park" and "child care." And then do some research into the relationship between Steve and Tom Gibboney. Enlightenment may come to you.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Angry is spot on! Angry should run for City Council. We need to replace Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline with responsible City Council members who actually want to serve the public rather than dictate to the residents what they can not do and then frivolously spend our hard earned tax dollars on pet projects that do not resonate with the public.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

The guy that really needs to go is Boyle. Such an obstructionist. Last night he held up council proceeding for 30 minutes while he vented over the item simply getting our City to join others as a coalition in dealing with the High Speed Rail issue.

The real test is coming on the budget issues. With the City manager un-willing to put staff cuts on the table, who is going to be strong enough to tell him that is what is needed. Not only staff cuts, but staff give backs. The whole population is suffering from this un-unprecedented global meltdown (today Geitner announced this is another depression); government must cut back just like the rest of us.

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Posted by Hamish McB
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm

This America, in America we step up to a challenge. I say that the program be given a chance to cut costs, raise revenue, and try to make it work. We as tax payers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the facility and we should be able to make it work. The Unions need to step up to the plate, so do the parents of the children, and the Park and Rec Department. Everyone loses so that the program can continue.

I also really hope that the $130,000 in “overhead” be looked at as well. If 5% of the City Managers time is charged to child care then if child care goes away than the City Manager should only make 95% of their current salary. If child care goes away then cut the Park & Recreation Directors salary along with every supervisor, manager, coordinator, superintendent, clerk, and administrative aide that gets part of their salary from child care, and the cut should be by the amount that they are currently paid from the child care program.

Also why should we be “subsidizing” seniors, I know that no politician is brave enough to look at cutting senior programs, but a subsidy is a subsidy and times are tough. With the choice between a cut to the police and a cut to the senior programs the choice is pretty easy one for me.

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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Subsidized child care is absurd. No one can pretend that it is equitable, since so few people benefit from it. Might the recipients be considered "elite?" Why is the working majority of the population asked to contribute to the special privilege of the few?

Earth to Hamish McB - seniors already fulfilled their own childcare responsibilities decades ago, without City subsidy. Services offered to them are cost far less than child care & can be utilized by a much larger percentage of the population.

How does anyone decide that their own precious progeny are more worthy of subsidized child care than the children of the rest of the town? Reverse elitism? I don't want to pay for care for someone else's children outside of the K-12 public system, for which my parcel tax alone is over $500 per year.

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Posted by Hamish McB
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm

On most points I agree with Downtowner, but I do not believe that we give the seniors a free pass. I am interested in knowing how many seniors are served on a daily basis, I don’t want to here the inflated numbers where they count everyone over 55 who attended a dance, picnic or a crab feed.

I have seen over the years that of all the inflated statistics that the senior participation numbers are the most “puffed up”. I want to know the average number of seniors that attend on a daily basis, and how much of my tax dollars are spent to them annually. Essentially the same information and level of scrutiny the child care program is going through.

Why not privatize the senior programs, why should I pay for them, heck I already pay money to social security that I will never see so that they can enjoy their “golden years” why do I have to pay for their ping-pong time. Seniors have always been the “sacred cow” no one has the courage to question. Just because the city has paid for these programs for decades does not mean that they are really necessary. If we can privatize the pool, and the children center, we can also privatize the seniors.

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Posted by Bean Counter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm

How many kids are in the Burgess child care? 20? 40? What does this subsidy amount to per head? At $206,421 ($337,111 loaded with administrative overhead) it's absurd.

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Posted by deja vu again
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:42 pm

This was explained in the other thread. (Now maybe the Almanac can explain why they like to start multiple threads on the same topic?)


Posted by Sean Howell, Almanac staff writer, on Apr 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

In an attempt to answer some of the above questions:

56 children attend the preschool program (the six toddlers and 50 preschool students are grouped together). About 100 attend the after-school program, but that program comes very close to recovering its costs, according to the city -- so the preschool program has been singled out for review.

The city has budgeted $780,421 from its Community Service Department for the preschool program for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ends June 30. It expects to receive $574,000 in fees.

When you factor in building depreciation and incorporate "indirect" costs from other departments -- time spent by administrators, maintenance costs, the time the staff spends compiling reports for the City Council on the center, etc. -- the total cost to the city comes to $958,516 per year, according to a consultant's report in a recent user fee study aimed at determining all costs that could defensibly be assessed to the program, and to other city services. That number does not incorporate the time city staffers are currently spending with the Parks and Recreation Commission, which has been charged with making a recommendation on how the city can cut its subsidy of the program.

Ms. Augustine couldn't say exactly how the extra-departmental costs break down, though she expects that the commission will ask her to provide more detail.

Will privatizing the center reduce the "extra-departmental" costs? It depends on how much a provider would be willing to pay the city, and on how much the city would save in administrative costs.

The Parks and Rec Commission will hold a public hearing on the program May 20. We'll be sure to print a reminder in advance of the meeting.

The Community Services Dept. compiled a detailed Power Point presentation that the commission saw at its meeting last week; if you'd like a copy, e-mail me at, and I'll send that over.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm

The thread is started by the first person to comment on a story. So this thread was started by Hank Lawrence, not the Almanac.
"Posted by Editor" means the story was posted by the editor. But the comment thread is started by the first person to enter a comment.

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Posted by Observant
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Multiply $1,189 (current fees) times 56 (number of children) and you get $66,584. Multiply that times 12 (months), and you get a yearly fee yield of $799,008 (which is more than the $780,421 that the city budgeted for the preschool program). This is not what the city will receive in fees this year (according to Sean Howell, the city expects to receive only $574,000 in fees this year).

Add to this the fact that 6 of the children are toddlers and pay higher fees and the fact that non-residents also pay a higher fee, and the discrepancy is even more striking. Is something wrong with this picture?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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