City day care fee voted down

Home day care providers appear to have beaten back an effort to charge them a city licensing fee.

Home day care providers appear to have beaten back an effort to charge them a city licensing fee.

The Human Services Committee voted 5-0 Monday to reject a proposal aldermen had requested from city staff to require that providers pay $250 for a two year city license.

The providers said their small, home-based businesses couldn’t afford to absorb the additional cost and suggested that the city inspection program largely duplicates one run by the state Department of Children and Family Services.

The aldermen did not pick up on that suggestion, however, and made no move to direct staff to see if the city inspection program might be eliminated.

Deanna Thomas, who provides day care services from her home at 127 Custer, said there’s little coordination between the state agency, which conducts unannounced inspections of the home day care sites every six months, and the city, which inspects them once every two years.

"We’ve been trying to get a happy medium between the city and the Department of Children and Family Services," Thomas said. "They have different rules and you find that once you’re in compliance with one, you’re out of compliance with the other."

Evonda Thomas, the city’s director of Health and Human Services, said in a memo that the day care providers should be able to absorb the cost of the city fee.

She said a survey of local providers showed that the average amount they charge parents per child is close to $220 a week — or nearly $20,000 for the two-year inspection cycle.

She said the actual cost to the city of conducting the inspection program totals at least $380 per day-care site — and that’s not counting the cost of re-inspections that may be needed if a site doesn’t meet standards on an initial visit.

The inspection process involves a health inspector, a property standards inspector and a fire inspector as well as fingerprinting of providers by the police department.

The city has about 45 home day care providers, so the total cost of the program to the city, based on the health director’s estimate is about $8,550 per year.

A final decision on the fee will be up to the full nine-member City Council and the issue could arise again in debate over the city budget between now and the end of February.

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