NEW PORT RICHEY — Thousands of parents across Pasco County rely on the school district's PLACE program to care for their children each summer when school is not in session.
Those parents could soon have to dig a little deeper into their pocketbooks to cover the expense.
Program administrators have proposed a $5 increase in the weekly charge, beginning June 6.
The added amount would go toward increasing the costs of doing business at the program's 39 school sites. PLACE does not receive funding from the district's tax revenue, and must operate as a self-sufficient standalone entity.
"By raising fees to $55 per week, a 10 percent increase, we are trying to cover increased electrical costs to the program of 7.6 percent, continued increases to benefits for staff, and enhancing our services to children," PLACE supervisor Mary Grey said.
The program intends to offer more enrichment activities such as field trips to attract and retain children.
Grey figured the fee increase would generate about $169,000 over the course of the 11-week summer program, which serves about 3,100 children up to 111/2 hours a day. PLACE did not raise its rates last summer.
School Board member Alison Crumbley said she was inclined to support the higher amount when it comes to the board on Tuesday, and hoped it would not force anyone out of the program.
"I'm sure there will be somebody who is affected, but the situation is what it is," she said. "Our costs are rising. They have to, unfortunately, be passed on. Hopefully the $5 isn't going to terribly impact anyone."
The cost of doing business has the district administration recommending yet another change to the PLACE program, as well.
During the academic year, the before- and after-school child care program has been losing money at its Marlowe Elementary School site for several years. Since 2008, the deficit has totaled close to $134,000 as participation has shrunk from 113 children in 2008-09 to 69 this year.
Meanwhile, the same program at Mittye P. Locke Elementary — just a mile away — has seen only modest enrollment, declining from 122 three years ago to 92 currently.
Assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly has proposed merging the two sites to save money.
Because Marlowe lets out an hour earlier than Locke, and it has more space available, the recommendation is to run PLACE for both schools at Marlowe.
The School Board will also consider this proposal on Tuesday.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.