Editor's note: More details on the FY 2011-12 city budget, approved 3-2 Tuesday night by the City Council, are available in a second article.
This article has been updated as of 1:15 p.m.
Parents made one last attempt to save several of the city's children's recreation programs at Tuesday night's budget hearing. In the end, the Milpitas preschool program was eliminated, and funding was cut for the Tidal Waves and D.A.R.E. programs, saving the city nearly $500,000.
Other children's programs—including After the Bell and Rainbow Theatre—were spared, but will see a rise in fees.
Rainbow Theatre will keep its staff, a director and set designer, and its four stage productions a year. In return, parents and supporters are expected to form a group, raise money and apply for grants worth $40,000—with assistance from nonprofits Milpitas Parks and Recreation Foundation and Milpitas Alliance for the Arts.
City to Close Preschool Program
With Tuesday night's vote, the city will no longer run a preschool for 3-to 5-year-olds at the community center, beginning in the upcoming fiscal year. The closure will provide the city with a net savings of $123,000, which includes a 20-hour-per-week child care coordinator and a 30-hour-a-week preschool coordinator.
According to a public employee database, the total cost of employment for Toby Librande was $32,184 in the 2010 calendar year. And for Juliet Johnson, $37,004.
City Manager Tom Williams said that when the city formed the preschool program, there were only two licensed day care providers in Milpitas. Now there are 33.
The city's preschool program is not licensed, said Bonnie Greiner, director of the parks and recreation department.
"We are basically a recreation preschool," she said. "There are a lot of facility changes we would have to make" to become licensed, she said, such as adding a bathroom inside the preschool.
There are 128 kids, about 94 percent Milpitas residents, enrolled this school year, said Greiner.
At slightly more than $6.50 per hour, the preschool, with 2½ to three hours per class, offers parents one of the cheapest options within the city.
One father at the meeting said, "With my wife going back to work because of the recession, we can't afford [to go somewhere else]."
In her role as coordinator, Toby Librande hasn't just run the city's preschool. She's also been the city's liaison to child care providers, such as Shaista Soroya's mother, who runs Milpitas Childcare Learning Center, a large family day care licensed by the city.
Without Librande as a "point of contact," Soroya said, the providers might "have to go through more hoops" when working with the city.
Librande also has coordinated workshops and guest speakers for the , which meets monthly.
Tidal Waves Restructured with Part-time Coaches
Last fall, the Citizens Budget Task Force calculated that the city's youth swim program cost $250,000, with fewer than 200 kids participating, and suggested the city eliminate the entire program.
At Tuesday night's budget hearing, Greiner recommended keeping the program, but cutting one full-time position. It would contibute to the city's net savings of $129,000. The City Council had approved the position in 2008 after parents petitioned for a full-time coach.
Fees for Tidal Waves have risen incrementally over the last few years. For Milpitas residents, beginner-level swimmers pay $55, juniors pay $65 and seniors pay $75 per month. However, Greiner said with the elimination of the full-time position and an increase in fees to $68, $78 and $88, the program could pay for itself.
Steve Balsbaugh, a Milpitas resident since 1979, said his grandson participates in Tidal Waves.
"The kids love the program," he told the council. "The parents love the kids. If it has to be a $13 increase, that's what we're willing to pay. Keep the program. That's the key thing we want to do."
Five part-time coaches will step up take on duties of head coach.
"We're going miss Jaime," said Balsbaugh. "But we still have the part-time coaches we had before. They're really good. It's still a viable program. That's the bottom line."
D.A.R.E. Replaced by Character Counts Program
Two full-time police officers staff the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which provides a 12-week drug prevention curriculum at local school campuses. The cost is about $400,000, including supplies, said Police Chief Dennis Graham.
The Milpitas Unified School District doesn't pay for the D.A.R.E. program; however, Milpitas elementary schools—including private schools Foothill Seventh-day Adventist, Merryhill and St. John's—benefit from it.
At the budget hearing, Graham presented an alternative to D.A.R.E., a six-week course called Character Counts. It would require only one full-time police officer, he said.
One of the full-time D.A.R.E. officers would be transferred to patrol services and fill a vacancy left by an officer who has retired, he said.
The council approved of the change to the Character Counts program. The FY 2011-12 budget estimates it will serve about 12 schools and 764 fifth-graders in the upcoming fiscal year.