LONG BEACH — The City Council has agreed to hire a consultant to coordinate and develop child-care services but will try to get private organizations to pay part of the cost.
The consulting job was the most controversial among 11 recommendations approved by the council Tuesday after a special task force review of the city's child-care needs.
The Mayor and City Council's Child Care Task Force called for the city to contract with a child care expert as a permanently funded position to coordinate the city's programs, work with employers and find new sources of funding for day care.
Councilman Warren Harwood argued that city taxpayers would be stuck with another example of burgeoning government unless the coordinator's position is co-funded by private funds.
Council Strikes Compromise
Striking a compromise, the council decided to fund the position through the start of the next fiscal year in July. By then, the coordinator will have had to line up social service agencies or find other private sources of funds to share in the cost of the estimated $40,000-a-year position.
In the end, Harwood joined the rest of the council in unanimous support of the recommendations.
"I think it's a first step and you have to compromise sometimes when you get a first step," said Councilman Clarence Smith. Smith said he expects the consultant to be hired by February.
About 12,000 children need care during workdays in Long Beach, said Mary Soth, the executive director of the Long Beach Day Nursery and chairwoman of the task force.
"We are anxious for the city to take a leadership role. There is an immediate need," Soth said.
She expressed concern, however, that the coordinator's time might be consumed with lining up private funding to maintain the position rather than developing new child-care services in the city.
Dr. Ruth Hayes, director of a child care program at Mann Elementary School, said that the cost to taxpayers of a city child care consultant would be more than offset by the value to working parents who are having trouble finding day care for their children.
"Every other day at my site, I get calls from people who are coming into the city who need child care," Hayes said, adding that her program is full so youngsters must be turned away. "We, as taxpayers, need to look at how urgent the need is."
But Harwood backed City Manager James Hankla in calling for the city to ask United Way or other social service agencies to contribute at least part of the cost of the position.
'Mistake to Take on Costs'
"It's a mistake for the city to jump in with both feet," Harwood said. "It's a mistake for the city to take on 100% of the costs from the beginning."
Harwood said the city's hiring of a child care consultant is an example of the way in which "expensive government programs get going."
Hankla said that a jointly funded position would represent a "public-private partnership that will serve the needs of the city for years to come."
Other recommendations adopted by the City Council include a call for further study of whether to halve the $146 annual business license fee assessed against private family day care homes serving six to 12 children.
The Planning Commission will be asked to consider whether to cut the $325 administrative use permit fee charged some large family day care homes and whether to reduce the minimum space requirement for a large family day care home from 1,320 to 1,000 square feet.