Martin daycare fee hikes anger parents

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A small crowd of parents spoke Tuesday night to Brookhaven School District board members in protest of price increases at Mamie Martin’s daycare.

     Under new prices approved by the board in February, monthly fees for the full day program will increase from $225 to $375. The monthly cost of after-school care will move from $75 to $125.

     Annual registration fees will remain at $50.

     About 15 to 18 parents were present Tuesday night, with Buddy Thibodeaux acting as the group’s spokesman.

     “We as parents and families of the Brookhaven School District are extremely disappointed about increases to our tuition,” Thibodeaux told board members.

     Thibodeaux acknowledged the daycare is losing money. He presented financial statements he obtained from the district indicating a loss of $35,845.04 in fiscal year 2011.

     “We couldn’t continue to operate it losing the kind of figures you see here,” said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya.

     However, Thibodeaux said the daycare’s losses appear to have already been decreasing without fee increases in the past year. He further suggested the daycare could save money without increasing tuition.

     The district formerly employed four certified teachers at $25 an hour at the daycare, and has now reduced that to two certified teachers at $20 an hour, Thibodeaux said. He suggested wages be further lowered to $15 or $10 an hour.

     “We didn’t start this program to make money,” Thibodeaux said. “We started this program to help working class people have a place for their children.”

     Board president Karen Braden told parents the board would take their comments under advisement, but board member Stan Patrick went on to offer a few statements.

     “The purpose of this is to break even, not break anyone’s back,” Patrick said. “We thought long and hard about this. This is not like it was a callous decision.”

     Many parents have begun looking to alternative daycare options, Thibodeaux said. He warned that decreased participation in the daycare could lead to further losses.

     Mamie Martin Principal Rob McCreary was present during Tuesday’s discussion.

     “I don’t envy y’all,” McCreary said to the board. “Whatever y’all decide, I’ll go with.”

     Currently, the daycare is running about 100 students, which McCreary said is the daycare’s maximum capacity.

     The Martin daycare has operated approximately 20 years, McCreary said.

     The new rates will be effective July 1.