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City of Lodi mulls controversial cut to afterschool programs

Should Lodi end four afterschool programs to close a big budget gap?

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:59 am, Thu May 17, 2012.

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.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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7 comments:

  • Jeff Hood posted at 7:22 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    Jeff Hood Posts: 27

    Parents interested in the After School Program at Vinewood, Reese, Larson and Lakewood elementary school are invited to a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, in the Cottage Room at Hutchins Street Square.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:41 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    John stated..."Who is responsible for child care?"


    I think it more complicated that who is responsible.

    like... why is child care so expensive in United States?

    Can a community do something to improve the quality of life for its citizens by helping to reduce cost and make the community a better place to live?

    If the city does help reduce cost for it's citizens, will the city as a whole benefit?

     
  • John Kindseth posted at 3:09 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    John Kindseth Posts: 228

    A major part of the answer to this difficulty lies in the answer to the question:

    "Who is responsible for child care?"

     
  • Mike Falkenberg posted at 1:29 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    LodiToday Posts: 6

    Mr. Hood also failed to realize that the same people collect payments from all the activities like baseball, swimming, basketball, etc., which are offered by Lodi Parks and Recreation. Yet, these programs are a few weeks in reality, compared to the (10) ten months that parents pay for the After School Program and far exceeds the revenue
    produced by anyone sport annually.

     
  • Mike Falkenberg posted at 12:23 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    LodiToday Posts: 6

    Mr. Hood stated, there is significant overhead with the After School Program. If that is
    the case, then the program is not being managed properly. Mr. Hood has exaggerated
    the simple process of running the program. Collecting and processing monthly payments takes no more than a few hours at the begining of each month and should be handled by two people. One part-time Administrator to oversee the four facilities, and approximately 10-12 part-time staff members to operate the After School Program. Unlike the Bridge Program offered to the other 22 schools in the district who receive "FREE" services, Lodi Parks and Recreation is not required to document attendance and maintain records to the CA. Dept. of Education. This is a simple program that is a community resource to keep our children safe.

     
  • Kristin Marquez posted at 12:20 pm on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    Kristin Marquez Posts: 7

    I attended this meeting last night and was shocked to learn more about the intricacies of budgets and how other schools have federally funded programs that are free because of their address or how many kids at other schools qualify for free lunch. It seems very simple, but not. Childcare is universal and income should not be a determination of who's child is taken care of.

    As a mother of two young boys who attend the Vinewood ASP Program I am disappointed that we are forced to put a price on the safety and well-being of our children during the hours of 2:30pm to 6pm. We don't have family close by therefore we rely on ASP for the past 4 years; my husband I both work full time. Our children enjoy the ASP program because it is fun, safe and yes they do get their homework done; but they also get to see their friends and make new friends too. The ASP teachers truly care about our the children of Lodi and I hope that the school district can see that perspective and follow their own mission statement:

    Lodi Unified School District will ensure the best education for students to be successful in life.

    Value Statement:
    Each student realizes his/her maximum potential.

    There is no achievement gap between groups of students.

    We have a diverse staff that is highly qualified and enjoys its work.

    Schools are inviting and responsive to parents, engaging them as partners in their children’s education.

    We provide resources to support quality education and safe, attractive learning environments in all of our schools.

    We have a trusting, working relationship between the Board of Education, the school district, and the community.

    Goals:
    Meet Program Improvement requirements as all groups of students improve their performance, and make progress to eliminate the Achievement Gap.

    Improve the engagement of parents/guardians as partners in their children’s education.

    Support an environment where diversity is valued.

    Maximize resources to improve the achievement of students in a safe and positive learning environment.

     
  • wendy coe posted at 6:45 am on Thu, May 17, 2012.

    wendy coe Posts: 33

    I do hope the district and city can save these programs. These programs have been there since late 60's or before. Seems the rental fee from the district is putting the program at risk. It is always sad to read that some schools are left behind because the overall school does not qualify for special money from the federal government because the income level is too high from parents. This is a good example how the middle class is being left behind. Where is the equality? Maybe there is some money from the gang task force or similar agency?

     

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