Editor's note: This story has updated information.
Maria Schexnayder didn't think much of it when the YMCA delayed registration for after-school daycare by a few weeks. When she finally got the registration packet, everything looked normal until she got to the price. Rates had jumped from $333 a month to $572 -- a 72 percent increase for three days a week.
"The biggest issue I've had with this fee increase is that there was no notice or heads-up that this was coming," Schexnayder said.
Hundreds of families across Mountain View who use the YMCA "Kids Place" after-school program, which works with Mountain View Whisman elementary schools to provide on-site daycare, were hit with a similar increase. The fewer the number of days per week a child is enrolled, the larger the fee increase.
But the price hike won't stick around for long. A YMCA official contacted the Voice Wednesday and said prices will be significantly reduced because of the outcry.
Dorothy Lin, a mother of two, uses the program two days a week. She saw her monthly fee increase from $223 to $471 -- a 111 percent increase over last year. She said the pricing structure also changed so that it's more expensive for anyone who isn't a YMCA member.
"It's such a convenient and great program, but at this rate I wonder if it's worth it," Lin said.
Another parent, J'lynn Lee, said she only needs the program on Thursdays, and two years ago there was a one-day per week option that was perfect for parents like her. The YMCA has since done away with the one-day option.
Lee said the steep, sudden increase puts parents like her in a difficult position. She said it's hard to find a reliable babysitter to drive and work for the 10 hours of day care they need each month, so the YMCA program is the only feasible option. But she said the cost increase is not something many families can afford right now.
"The cost of living here in Mountain View is already outrageous," Lee said. "Many families have both parents working outside the home to afford their homes."
Lee said many employers are unwilling to allow employees to leave work to pick up their kids.
Elizabeth Jordan, Chief Operations Officer at the YMCA of Silicon Valley, said they reviewed the new prices and on Wednesday decided to reduce it to a small, incremental increase from last year. Parents who sign up in two days a week will pay $290 instead of the original $471 price figure, and parents who sign up for three days a week will pay $399 instead of $530.
The YMCA will send a letter out to all parents who signed up for after-school care last year with the revised prices.
Jordan said when they originally reworked the prices for the coming school year, they had no idea it would affect parents so much. They became aware of the problem last week when a parent contacted the YMCA with concerns over the program new rates.
Part of the reason why the prices went up is because the program is essentially designed to be a five-day-a-week program. Jordan said when parents sign up for two or three days per week, their kids "take up a spot" for the entire week, even on days when they aren't present.
As a result, the fewer number of days per week, the bigger the fee hike for the coming school year. Parents who enroll their students in the program all five days of the week saw a nominal increase of about 6 percent -- significantly less than for students attending less often.
Of the roughly 650 families that participate in the program, about 100 to 150 of them sign up for either two or three days a week. Jordan said that means the YMCA of Silicon Valley has subsidized these families who participate for only part of the week, and with the newly revised prices will continue to subsidize them through next year.
Jordan said subsidizing these parents will cost an estimated $170,000 next year.
Lin said she received a response from the YMCA that said market research shows the new prices are the appropriate rates, and are comparable to what similar program charge. The response also stated that the program must pay for staffing and programming for five days per student, regardless of how many days per week parents sign up for.
But Jordan said the YMCA after-school program is not like other programs on the market. She said they're not looking to turn a profit, and do not set prices based on similar day care programs.
"We don't compare ourselves to other 'market prices.' We are a community-based not-for-profit," Jordan said.
The outrage and subsequent price changes may be a problem of communication. On one hand, parents felt there was little communication from YMCA regarding the price hike. On the other hand, Jordan said there was very little communication from parents that indicated the new prices were too high to handle.
"We just heard it through the grapevine and from (the Voice). We only recently had a parent come out and tell us other parents are upset," Jordan said. "It's challenging not knowing who to communicate to."
Jordan said in addition to the subsidies, there is financial assistance available for people who have trouble paying for the services. YMCA of Silicon Valley has awarded $236,000 in financial assistance through scholarships to Mountain View. She said the after-school program is more than just a daycare program, and includes a structured schedule with activities that support leadership development and team building.
The YMCA of Silicon Valley runs programs at over 50 licensed childcare sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Each site has anywhere from 20 to more than 80 children enrolled.