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Dufferin County considering closing Jean Hamlyn Day Care Centre

December 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews

Jean Hamlyn Day Care Centre patrons will learn Dec. 11 if the facility will be closed.

That’s when Dufferin County’s community services committee will further discuss, during a special meeting, the centre’s proposed June 26, 2020 closure. That would coincide with the school year’s end.

The group met Nov. 28 and heard from a throng of concerned parents who will be adversely affected by the centre’s closure. The committee deferred a decision to allow it more time to make a well-informed decision.

Laura Ryan, the committee’s chairperson and mayor of Mono, said questions about the day care centre’s viability has come up a few times since 2010. The centre’s future is in jeopardy this year because the provincial government has indicated it will bring cuts to child care funding.

The child care funding formula will change from 80 per cent from the province and 20 per cent from municipalities and counties to a 50-50 cost-share.

Every Dufferin County property owner will have to kick in an extra one per cent to the county portion of their annual tax bill to cover the Jean Hamlyn Day Care Centre, even if they don’t have a child availing of the service.

“That’s not going to go over well,” said County Warden Darren White.

According to Anna McGregor, the county’s director of community services, the Jean Hamlyn facility’s closure will allow more than $200,000 in municipal property tax levy, plus as much as $111,000 in provincial subsidy, to be redistributed to other providers annually starting in 2021.

“This would help sustain the Dufferin child care system and mitigate an anticipated increase in the municipal share of child care costs of around $352,000 between 2020 and 2021,” she outlined in a report to the committee.

For perspective, offsetting the $200,000 increase in property taxes would require at least an extra $3,000 a year for Jean Hamlyn’s 65 fulltime users. All tallied with half-day children and full-day users, the Jean Hamlyn facility serves 102 children.

Of those, 43 will “age out” by June 2020, said McGregor.

“The demand for the child care subsidy is at the highest it’s ever been,” said McGregor.

The county has undertaken a review of its programs and services to best find efficiencies. Given the review is ongoing, Orangeville resident Kaleigh Hoeg suggested closing the day care is premature.

“Are you sure you may not be able to find efficiencies elsewhere, and could we possibly delay this (closure) for a future time?” said Hoeg.

Orangeville resident Brandon Pachan asked if time could be given for affected parents to lobby the provincial government for understanding. The impacts such decisions have on families can’t be found on financial spreadsheets, he said.

Three local day cares have indicated to the county their desire to fill the void that would be created should Jean Hamlyn shutter. They are The Sunflower School, the Third Street Child Care Centre, and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

McGregor said families who get a child care subsidy at the Jean Hamlyn Day Care Centre would be able to transfer their subsidy to a new licensed day care provider. 

County officials indicated the hole created by Jean Hamlyn’s closure could be filled by existing day cares. County-wide, Jean Hamlyn encompasses just three per cent of licensed child care spaces. There are vacancies within the system that can be availed of for each age group after the closure.

Orangeville is a commuter town with many residents commuting to jobs south in the Greater Toronto Area. John Zoltak, another Orangeville parent, said day care operators opening north of Orangeville would mean parents will have to driver to Shelburne, at least, and then back to Orangeville before further down Highway 10 to work.

“It’s not feasible,” Zoltak said.

For some parents, some of the beauty at Jean Hamlyn was they could commit to two days a week whereas many private facilities require at least a three-day minimum. For Daniel Di Cintio, that means another $400 a month ding to his household budget.

That was a sentiment echoed by many of the parents in attendance.

Aubrey Woodward was concerned about the costs of alternate day options. With the impending closure of Jean Hamlyn, it seems all the reasonably priced day care options are gone.

“It’s that fine line where I question if I should even work anymore,” said Woodward.

Operating a day care is about more than profit margins and even balancing the books.

“It’s about taking care of some of the more vulnerable members of society,” she said.



         

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