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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

The right thing on child care The right thing on child care (May 13, 2005)

The city's effort to build a $3.5 million child care center at Rengstorff Park may boil down to one crucial vote, that of City Council member Nick Galiotto, who said Tuesday night that he needed more information before he could break a 3-3 council split and support the project.

We hope Galiotto's hesitation does not derail the project, which would provide care for 104 children in a brand new facility at the park. A major question that arose during the study session concerned how many low-income families using the center could receive a subsidy.

Galiotto wants to see more families eligible. "I want to know who we're really helping," he said, after opponents charged that many of the children helped would come from middle and upper-income families. Under the current plan, $50,000 worth of care per year is included in the deal with the provider, enough to cover the costs of only about five slots.

The child care provider would pay the city about $200,000 a year to lease the building, which the city would pay for with a $2.8 million startup loan at 1 percent interest from the Packard Foundation. The city will have to put $1.2 million up front to cover the interest on the loan. Overall, the center will cost the city about $1.9 million, which could be reduced over the years with lease revenue from the operator.

The center had the support of Mayor Matt Neely, and council members Laura Macias and Mike Kasperzak, but Matt Pear, Greg Perry and Tom Means lined up solidly against it, saying the city should not be in the child care business or that whatever the funding scheme, the money could be better spent by providing a direct subsidy to low-income parents who could not afford the often high-priced care.

Child care experts have told the council for years that the city has chronic shortages of child care availability, in part due to the difficulty of potential providers to get a license. The new center will help alleviate that problem, but the city also should look at reducing the roadblocks that can slow down approval of new child-care facilities.

One of the city's most important jobs is to meet the needs of all of its residents. The city provides many niche services, including tennis courts, golf courses and other recreational facilities, as well as the public library, performing arts center and care for senior citizens. In this scheme of things, child care does not look out of place, and in fact, will add to the quality of life for many Mountain View families.

We hope the city and council member Galiotto can find a way to build more help for low-income families into the center's funding plan. It would be a shame to lose this opportunity after so many years of study.

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