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Publication Date: Friday, August 17, 2001

Funding a key issue in child-care center discussions Funding a key issue in child-care center discussions (August 17, 2001)

By Justin Scheck

In an effort to address its lack of child care, the city has been studying the possibility of adding a child-care center to the community center it plans to build in Rengstorff Park.

Although the city has land set aside for the project, it has yet to allocate funding, and with concerns about a tight general fund, it is seeking funding from outside sources.

According to a study by Ken Jaffe, who directs the International Child Resource Institute, a nonprofit in Berkeley that has helped to develop child-care centers in the U.S. and Europe, building a facility for 80 to 100 children would cost between $2.75 million to $2.98 million. Jaffe also estimated that based on the available space and "operational and economic considerations," the center could best serve 92 children. Complex funding

How to fund the center emerged as a key issue at an Aug. 7 City Council study session where Jaffe, a consultant for the Mountain View-Los Altos Child-care Task Force, presented his report.

Because the city's main contribution would be the land, funding for construction would likely come from outside sources. These could include grants or loans from foundations and state and local government, corporate funding given in exchange for spaces in the program, or investment by a private developer or developer/ operator.

Council member Rosemary Stasek expects the funding will come from a mix of public and private grants, but said that collecting over $2 million may not be easy. "It's going to be in a city park; the city's going to have to take a leadership role in it, but we're also going to need a lot of involvement from other community organizations," she said.

Stasek also said that because the task force wants to have at least 30 percent of the child-care spaces subsidized for low-income families, the council will have to secure ongoing funding, in addition to the one-time expense of construction.

Council member Sally Lieber said she has heard from a number of foundations interested in helping to subsidize the project, and she is confident that the city can secure enough funding from nonprofits to build the facility.

"There's a huge need for subsidized care in Mountain View... And I think 30 percent is a good commitment," said Lieber.

Jaffe said Monday that different foundations the city will seek funding from have different criteria for determining their expenditures. "Some foundations will only provide the funding for that group that is low-income... The funding from foundations would be most easy to receive if you have a high percentage of low-income children," he explained. Such conditions could clash with the stated desire of the city and the child-care task force to serve a broad cross-section of the community.

Jaffe said that corporate funding often comes in the form of subsidies linked to the percentage of spaces granted to the donor company. He noted that [the city could attach] requirements to the funding, including a rule that priority be given to children whose parents live in the community. "Here's an opportunity, potentially, where corporate funding could meet part of the needs of the community," he said.

Greg Perry, a parks and recreation commissioner who has taken issue with the new community center project to which the child-care center is linked, said he has mixed feelings about the project.

"What I'm concerned about is that the child-care center is of lower priority than the community center, and they won't put money into the child-care center until they get the $15 million for the community center," said Perry. "External funds require matching funds, so you still have to look at the city's priorities." Numbers served

While recognizing the need for increased child-care capacity, Perry wonders whether the city's efforts will effectively address the problem.

"I don't see the child-care center as a major step in attacking the shortage in the city... Instead of spending $2 million on a building, they could subsidize people who need child-care, far more than the 92 kids it would serve," he said.

Jaffe said that although the center would serve a relatively small number of children, a successful operation could spur the development of more child-care facilities in Mountain View.

"If it becomes a model or best practice, it can generate interest" from private developers, Jaffe said.

Jeannie Richter, the task force head, said her next step will be to try to secure a grant to fund a study into getting the funding for the center.


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