Paying more for five-star rated child care is imminent for Butler County.

Paying more for five-star rated child care is imminent for Butler County.

“My proposal this year is for parents to pay for the quality they’re getting,” said Butler Trustee Ron Engelbrecht.

Butler Community College Trustees gathered Monday to discuss Educare rates which will most likely be increasing in August.

Trustees opened the rate discussion with a philosophical view of the facility.

Originally the complex was meant as an instructional lab for students and has transformed over the years into an accredited and highly renowned center for child care.

Educare is the only five-star-rated facility in Kansas, but rates for attendees are the lowest in the county which has a few Trustees asking tough questions.

The facility has been costing tax payers through tax subsidies and Trustees want to close the gap and put the program's rates more in line with other organizations of its kind.

Educare is in some comparisons five dollars less than surrounding facilities.

“We are headed in the wrong direction,” said Englebrecht. “We're sucking all of the
oxygen out of the market.”

Englebrecht wants to see the program charge the average fees that child care facilities require.

He added that the low-rate structure is disabling the competition. He utilized KinderCare as an example for rates in the county.

KinderCare has facilities in Andover and Augusta and a representative from Educare explained that residents in those cities are more willing to pay higher rates.

“We have the best child care facilities in the county,” Engelbrecht expressed. “Rates should at least average for the county.”

He said that residents in west section of Butler have said they don't have as low of an option and still pay the taxes for Educare.

“It's just a step in a different direction,” he added. “I'm puzzled by the extent we are willing to subsidize.”

“In some respects it is a general education class room for various courses,” President Jackie Vietti responded.

She said the sociology, education and an assortment of classes utilize the program as a lab setting.

“It would be a tragic mistake to turn Educare into a neutral cost center,” President Jackie Vietti added.

Galen Evans, Butler senior accountant, informed Trustees that last year $190,000 was budgeted for the facility and $150,000 was actually spent, so the facility hasn't been spending money unnecessarily.

He said salaries and food services are set costs for the program and cannot be lowered therefore cuts take a bit more critical evaluation.

“A five dollar increase would kill it,” said one Educare representative. “Our revenue would decrease drastically.”

Evans explained to Trustees that discounts could be evaluated as a way to adjust revenue for the center.

Students receive a 20 percent discount, SRS attendees receive compensation for what they cannot fully cover and family discount rates that increase per child could be re-evaluated.

“What drives our cost is labor,” said Evans. “The economic value and cost of labor are not tied together.”

Vietti suggested that postponement of the decision on how much to raise rates would be necessary to fully explore options and come to a reasonable dollar amount.

She also suggested investigation in donor support and grant potential.

A 30-day postponement was agreed upon and during the Trustees' June meeting a dollar amount will be voted on. The new rate will then kick into effect Aug. 1 instead of July 1.

Less than $5 and more than 50 cents will be the boundaries Trustees will consider for the rate increase.

“We will look at discount structure and students and come back in June with new rates as an action item,” said Vietti.

Trustee Dr. Greg Joyce motioned to table Educare rates until the June meeting. The motion passed and Trustees adjourned.