Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Minimum wage increases a concern for Children's World Daycare Society

Christian Davis

Children's World Daycare Society (CWDS) Director Marie Meckelborg appeared as a delegation before Pincher Creek's Town Council on Monday evening, November 23. Meckelborg told council CWDS was hoping for rent relief for January and February 2016, after an increase in Alberta's minimum wage significantly impacted their bottom line. Meckelborg's letter to the Town explained that CWDS had a significant negative net income for the month of October 2015, at -$16,724.46.

CWDS is a non-profit organization providing service to between 70 and 100 children from the Pincher Creek area.  It rents its primary location in the Town Hall building from the Town.

"What has happened is we were trying to prepare for the minimum wage increase, and I don't think we did it fast enough, is what I think it's boiling down to," said Meckelborg.  

"We did need to increase the fees in order to cover the minimum wage increase," Meckelborg said.  They (CWDS' clientele) have had an 8% rate increase on their fees, and another 2% in the spring. "  She said 20 staff members received a $1.00/hr wage increase, "Which is significant."

The increase in fees and layoffs for some of the daycare's clientele has meant some of the children are staying home.  "That has not helped. Thankfully, we are seeing an increase again in some of those numbers. With the (fee) increase, we were able to keep afloat, but as you can see, we did lose a significant amount of money, which is unfortunate, but that is kind of the times we are in."

Meckelborg explained that December and January is a time of hardship for CWDS, as the daycare often does not have the income come in until later on in the year, as people catch up after Christmas.  "I can't really afford to kick everybody out of daycare, they do catch up, but it does take them a month or two. I know we have some big expenses coming up in January," she added, mentioning annual insurance and the WCB payments. "Those are things I have to factor in as well. They are not nearly as generous as the Town may be. Which is why I'm here, just to ask for that help."

Mayor Don Anderberg asked for more information about the anticipated impact of expected upcoming minimum wage increases. Meckelborg said there is a committee of childcare workers from all over southwestern Alberta that plans to speak to the provincial government. "In all honesty, if the (minimum) wage keeps going up the way that it is, I don't know that parents will be able to afford to keep their children in daycare. Which means I don't know if we are able to keep the daycare open. So, the government would have to subside that. There's not really any way around that. Especially if they are talking about $25 a day daycare. There's no way for us." She says the committee she is working with has come to the same conclusion, as they have to keep a proper staff to child ratio.

She said she has been advised to have a minimum of three months of income in the bank, at all times. She said she has been with the daycare for two years. "Obviously, when I started, there was negative income. We've come a long way." She reported a net profit of $5,500 last year, and $2,000 the year before. "It's getting there, but we are not where we should be, to date."

Another aspect of the situation is how much education a childcare worker has invested in training for their position. "You don't spend $30,000 to make the same amount as somebody else," said Meckelborg.  

"If they do continue to raise the wage, and not subsidize the cost to the parents, it just becomes more unaffordable for people."

She explained CWDS has had to send some debts to collection, which she said might seem heartless but they can’t afford to provide their services for free.  CWDS is moving toward a prepaid system which Meckelborg said is resulting in some opposition from their clientele.

They are at capacity in the infant room, however they have spots available in the toddler program and 3-5 year old program. "The more children you have, the more hours you have to have for staff."

She said the Junction Food Bank has been assisting by providing some dry goods. "We are cutting corners and trying to save costs that way, as well."

Mayor Anderberg said "From my point of view, you provide an essential service for the town, and I can see the bind you're in." He requested council discuss the matter later at the same meeting, instead of putting it on the agenda for a future meeting, a request that council readily agreed to.

During that later discussion Mayor Anderberg asked if Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) had any funds left over for the year.  Councillor Thornton is a member of the FCSS board.  He said there are funds left over, but a proposal on how to spend those funds was already being discussed.

Council ultimately decided to forgo charging CWDS rent for November and December 2015. 

Council also directed administration to draft a letter to go to the appropriate Alberta Government ministers that explains the difficulties daycares are facing due to minimum wage increases.

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