The City of Lodi is subsidizing a private day-care program, and the city's Budget and Finance Committee is determining whether the arrangement is a good use of taxpayer money.
Nine years ago, the city asked Lodi Memorial Hospital to take over a day-care program that was operated by the Parks and Recreation Department. The hospital is required to pay the city $1 per year to run its Camp Hutchins program out of Hutchins Street Square, according to a deal between the two parties.
The Budget and Finance Committee, which advises the City Council on financial matters, will discuss the deal at its meeting on Monday. Some committee members think the city should get out of the childcare business.
"My belief is that the city needs to charge the hospital for rent for that facility," committee member John Johnson said. "There's no reason why the city needs to subsidize a private day care that significantly."
Camp Hutchins, which is for children ages three to five, charges $130 per week for full-time child care and $100 per week for part-time. The fees are scheduled to rise by $8 on July 1. In comparison, Chicago-based La Petite Academy charges $43-$123 per week for 2-year-olds through 12-year-olds in different programs at its Lodi day care.
La Petite Academy pays rent at its Kettleman Lane campus, according to Director Kristen Donadio, although neither she nor a corporate spokesman could say how much.
Hutchins Street Square Director Jim Rodems said it would be difficult to calculate how much rent to charge for the space in which the day care operates. He added that any additional cost the program incurs would be passed on to the users of the day care.
Carrol Farron, director of community development at the hospital, said the day care does not make a profit, and the rent-free deal helps them provide the service.
"We do cover our costs," she said. "We don't make money. Any money we make goes back into the program. If we had to pay rent, it would be difficult to provide (the service)."
Camp Hutchins is currently at capacity with 65 children and has a waiting list through next school year, according to Director Jill Vanasse, one of eight employees of the program.
Council members say they are unsure if the city should fund the day-care center.
"It appears to me that we are subsidizing it to a great degree," Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock said. "Whether it's the best use of the space at this time, I don't know. I'm glad the Budget and Finance Committee is looking into it."
• Licensed day care for 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds.
• Designed for children in preparation for kindergarten.
• Fees as of July 1 are $138 per week for full-time, $108 for part-time and $78 for three-hour preschool session only.
Source: Camp Hutchins.
Johnson said if the city decides to combine the Parks and Recreation Department with the Community Center, it could use the space at Hutchins Street Square to house the recreation division, while keeping the parks division at its Stockton Street location.
Mayor Bob Johnson, of no relation to John Johnson, said the deal with the hospital is similar to deals with other nonprofit organizations. He said the city provides buildings at little cost to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Adopt-A-Child and the Lodi Boys and Girls Club.
"There are times when it's appropriate for the city to be generous," he said. "I'm not necessarily uptight about a sweetheart deal on the rent."
Budget and Finance Committee member Dave Kirsten said the issue needs to be studied further, but added that the day care could provide revenue to the city.
"In our tough love budget era, it causes people to wonder if we shouldn't do things differently," he said.