Richard D. L. Fulton
(1/4) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners discussed at their January 3 meeting the future of the town-supported After School Program.
The issue was introduced for discussion by Commissioner Patrick A. Joy, who had expressed concerns that participation was dropping because of amount of money families were charged to have their child or children in the program.
"Since the town has introduced a fee," Joy stated, "the program has seen a marked drop in the number of kids participating."
He said families have indicated they "just can’t afford" to have their children participate in the program.
Town staff introduced the fee system after taking over the formerly county-run program when Frederick County pulled out. The town’s per-child fee to participate is $20 a month, or about $1 a day.
Joy noted the program was based on the assumption that around 30 children would be participating. "That is down to the low 20s or teens," he told his fellow commissioners. "Do we keep the program going for ten people?"
The commissioner suggested that the user fee be dropped to aid in increasing participation, if cost was a factor in parents deciding not to participate. "I’m for getting rid of the fee and hoping attendance goes up."
If eliminating the fee did result in increased participation, he said, "it would be worth it."
The cost of operating the program to the town is $16,854 a year, of which $3,540 is recouped through participation fees, according to Town Manager David Haller.
Operational costs include $14,263 in salaries for After School Program staff, representing about 85 percent of the total expenses, $1,091 in payroll taxes, and $1,500 in program costs.
The $3,540 participation fees received reduced the cost to the town to $13,314.
Expense reductions have already been proposed for 2012 which would chop around $3,000 off the town’s expenses, reducing the program cost to around $13,893 with participation fees expected to be garnered amounting to only $965 (subject to change).
The commissioners elected to continue the discussion at their next meeting, and invite After School Program Director Erma Tressler to participate.
"We need to evaluate the whole program," Joy stated.
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