Members of the Fulton Public Schools Board of Education have voted to raise rates for the Options Daycare program.
"We didn't enter any decisions lightly," BOE member Jackie Pritchett said.
The new fee structure, approved during Wednesday's meeting, will be implemented for the 2019-20 school year.
Options provides child care for young children of employees and teen students. Students' fees are subsidized by the Division of Family Services, while the fees paid by employees help keep Options open. This year, employees paid fees ranging from $29 per day for infants to $18 per day for 4 year olds. Under the new price structure, parents of children ages 2 and younger will pay $43.50 per day, and parents of children ages 3 and older will pay $34.50 per day.
The new rates are calculated based on the year-round rates of similar child care programs in the area, Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said.
"Even with increased fees, with our current enrollment, we're still looking at a minimum $61,000 deficit for next year," Cowherd pointed out. "My thought process is, don't jump out and hire lots of new people for Options."
That's assuming participation remains constant, but families come and go. The deficit could be even higher.
A committee consisting of board members, parents of children in Options and Options staff discussed the budget issues and proposed the fixes the BOE approved.
"The (solutions) were supported by the parents," board member Leah Baker said.
Board members also voted to pass two other changes to Options. They approved the creation of an agreement for parents to sign — among other things, it requires a 30-day notice for withdrawing a child — and the reinstatement of the Options supervisor position.
But Options isn't the only Fulton Public Schools child care program with budget problems.
BACPAC, the district's before school/after school care program, is also running at a deficit.
"We currently have a $10,800 deficit," Cowherd said. "It's a fee issue."
The program sometimes accepts children who need immediate care due to a crisis situation (such as foster children) at no cost. However, that accounts for only a small portion of the deficit, Cowherd said.
The district is eyeing a 20 percent rate increase for BACPAC. During Wednesday's meeting, board members voted to keep that on the table as an option but wait another semester to make a decision.