A vote expected to be taken by the Burbank Unified school board may result in prices rising, sharply in some cases, for parents using the district’s Horace Mann Child Development Center and Monterey Infant Center.
Last month, district staff proposed a series of cost increases to align the centers’ prices more closely with the area’s market rate, which ranges from $325 to $425 a week.
Burbank’s board is slated to decide on Thursday whether to enact the hikes, which would become effective July 1.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve met with parents, classified staff and teachers of Horace Mann,” said Peter Knapik, Burbank Unified’s director of elementary education, during a Feb. 21 board meeting.
“From those meetings, we’ve gone ahead and put together some recommendations, suggestions and ideas,” he added.
The need to raise prices was stressed by district staff as a way to close a looming deficit because Horace Mann is projected to lose $936,533 this school year.
An affirmative vote would enact a series of initiatives, starting with a 10% annual increase in prices for current parents until the fee reaches the market rate.
New parents would see even steeper increases immediately, with one-time raises of anywhere from 22% to 40% until they reach the market rate.
Along with the fee hikes, a $100 annual waiting-list fee could be enacted, which could be lucrative for the district.
Approximately, 77 infants have been placed on the 3-month-old-to-1-year-old waiting list since 2017, with no cost to parents.
“Of course, we would go ahead and give our [Burbank Unified] employees priority as they are on the wait list,” Knapik said.
Currently, Horace Mann parents pay $325 a week for children from 3 months to 2 years, $300 for non-toilet-trained 2- to 3-year olds and $235 for toilet-trained 2- to 5-year-olds.
Returning parents would see increases to $358, $330, $259 a week, respectively, for the next school year, and jumps to $394, $363 and $285 the following year.
The market rate for new parents would be $425 weekly for children from 3 months to 2 years, $365 for toilet- and non-toilet-trained 2- to 3-year-olds and $325 for 3- through 5-year-olds.
Monterey, which serves infants from 3 months to 2 years, would also raise its rates until it hit the $425 market price.
The district’s new rates are based on averages of surrounding providers, including the Burbank Housing Corp. childcare center, Montessori, Our Village Preschool, Teddy Bear, Mary Alice O’Connor Center and the Burbank YMCA.
“We’re looking at trying to be at market value, to be consistent with other childcare programs in the area,” said Stephanie Fields, Burbank Unified’s child-development programs coordinator.
On top of the financial changes, an enrollment realignment was also proposed at Horace Mann.
The 3-month-old to 1-year-old class would be cut from 10 to eight students, the 1-year-old to 2-year-old group would keep two classrooms, but drop from 27 to 24 children, while the 2- to 3-year-old class would reduce from two classrooms to one and be capped at 24 children.
In terms of growth, the 3- to 4-year-old class would keep its two classes but increase its allowance significantly to 48 children from 31 currently. The 4- to 5-year-old group would stay at 24 children.
While there may be smaller numbers at certain levels, children will naturally age out of the program and no child will be asked to leave.
“We’re not kicking anybody out of this program,” board member Steve Ferguson said. “I want to make this clear.”
The new rates, along with some potential staffing changes, are projected to cut the deficit by more than half at Horace Mann to $406,718 for the next school year and to $301,232 the following year.