Lodi city staff has recommended ending four afterschool programs as part of the solution to close a large budget gap in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department.
The city has always subsidized the programs at Reese, Vinewood, Larsen and Lakewood elementary schools because they do not receive federal grants for their afterschool programs, like other Lodi Unified School District schools in the city, said Jeff Hood, interim department director.
The city's projected budget and revenues for the programs, which currently have 184 students, leave a $100,000 shortfall, Hood said.
Part of the shortfall is because in 2010, the district started charging the city $50,000 a year to rent the four sites, Hood said.
Because his department is so cash-strapped, Hood said the city can no longer afford the programs.
"As daycare and child care are not core missions of the department, we decided it wouldn't be fair for our programs to suffer in order to provide a subsidized daycare," Hood said.
But parents at the schools are frustrated that the district is charging rent, and many have offered to pay more to keep the programs.
Several of the parents showed up at the Lodi City Council meeting Wednesday night and the topic became a focal point during the public comment period.
Lodi resident Kelly Brown recalculated the budget for the afterschool programs and said the city should be able to make it work with parents paying $150 a month.
He feels like there has been a lack of communication between the parents, the city and the district. He also said with the recent talk about gangs increasing in Lodi, closing afterschool programs is not the solution.
"You take a mom, especially with a couple kids, and they now have to spend $800 to $900 for private daycare. So instead, their kids become latch-key kids and they hope they get home OK and don't get influenced from gangs that everyone is talking about preventing," Brown said.
Brown also took issue with a survey the city did in February asking parent if they would agree to an increase from $115 to $150 a month for the programs.
Of the 184 students in the programs, surveys for 94 students were returned and 53 said they would not support an increase or that significant of an increase, Hood said.
But Brown said he went out on a Friday afternoon for two hours and asked parents to sign a statement saying they would support paying $150 a month. Parents of 80 children agreed to pay that much, Brown said
One of the biggest issues is the $50,000 rental fee, city officials said. On May 3 at a joint meeting of school district and city officials, Mayor JoAnne Mounce and Councilman Bob Johnson asked that the district reconsider charging rent.
"City staff have been wrestling with this for many months and we were blindsided by people at the district," Johnson said. "When we raised the issue, the silence was deafening."
But trustee Michael Abdallah said he attended the May meeting, and there was never any talk about the afterschool programs definitively closing. At the district board meeting Tuesday night, Abdallah said that assistant superintendent Art Hand told the board that the city and district were still working on a solution.
"From what we understood, they are going to find a way to keep it going. It is up in the air, and we don't know what's going on at this moment," Abdallah said.
Even with an increase in parent fees, Hood said it still would not cover the costs. Previously, the city has just absorbed the programs' deficit. But when the city looks at all of the personnel costs, including the managers who oversee the programs, the finance employees who process the payments and office personnel who take the registrations, there is significant overhead, Hood said.
"We don't object to having the program, but we need to find a way to make it pay for itself, especially when the rest of the city and the other services in the department have had to reduce services," he said.
After the meeting, Councilman Phil Katzakian said he was going to keep talking with city staff and the school district because the afterschool programs are important for Lodi families. His own kids attended when they were little.
"It's a great program and it's affordable. We have got to figure a way to keep it in place," he said.