MOROCCO — After a unanimous vote by the Newton County Council Nov. 8, a licensed childcare facility will be opening up in the county.
The council voted to give $375,000 of landfill funds to the Jasper Newton Foundation to set up funding for childcare in the county. The funding was requested by the Newton County Childcare Coalition with hopes and plans to convert two classrooms in the Goodland Community Center for licensed childcare and have Right Steps Child Development Center come in and operate the facility. The facility would have one classroom for eight children with ages ranging from infant to two years old. The other classroom could accommodate 20 children ages 3-5.
“Our community needs the option for childcare to retain our quality employees,” said Brienne Hooker, Executive Director of the Jasper Newton Foundation. “The county needs a variety of childcare options including faith-based care, home-based care, and center-based care. The only thing missing in Newton County is center-based care. There are currently no licensed childcare options in the county.”
During her presentation, Hooker also briefly showed a map with plans for potential sites in Kentland, Morocco, and an expansion at the Community Church in Roselawn.
“These funds will be held at the foundation and a Newton County Childcare advisory board will be set up to distribute the funds, but the Goodland site will be the priority. This shouldn’t be about money, this is about growing the next wave of workforce. It is a worthwhile risk.”
The plan and request for funds were much different from what was brought up to the council several months prior.
According to the first plans and the original budget submitted by Right Steps, to make the facility and their operating plan work they would need a one time set up cost of $46,482 and the first year’s operating budget of $371,800 with the majority of that being salaries.
“That budget was worse cast scenario,” said Right Steps CEO Debi DeBruyn at the Nov. 8 meeting.
The council members stated from that very first meeting that they were all for bringing childcare to the county but that it needed to be sustainable.
“I don’t believe there is anyone here on the council opposed to childcare,” said Council President Scott Carlson. “I feel we have been unfairly targeted as being against it and that is not the case. We asked for numbers to show that it will be sustainable and we didn’t get those numbers. As council members we are being asked to put a lot of money into something that we haven’t be shown can be sustainable. Everyone here understands the need and the benefits of childcare.”
Councilmember Tim Lohr said that the council wanted those numbers because the first budget from Right Steps showed a deficit after the very first year.
Council Vice President Michael Mark added that the only questions the council had were because they are investing $375,000 and they wanted to make sure it was viable and wouldn’t fail.
“I have never been against childcare,” said Councilmember Abbey Rossiter. “If it was up to me, this money would go to help pay childcare costs for our residents, instead of going to cover operational costs and salaries. I also would like to see this money go toward the entire county to help with childcare, and if you are telling me that is how this money is going to be distributed I would feel much more comfortable with that. We have to answer to our constituents and that is why we ask questions.”
DeBruyn went on to say that some of the money can be used to provide a sliding scale pay fee for residents and money left over from the Goodland project can go to help with childcare anywhere in the county.
“We don’t have the numbers on paper (to show that it is sustainable) but we do believe the support is there,” said Hooker.
The coalition also said that the cost is higher for doing just two classrooms, but that is what was chosen because those two classrooms can be licensed immediately.
“Once you start one center, the opportunities increase and spreads quickly so that other centers can open,” said Victoria Matney of The Childcare Resource Network.
“We are ready to have that childcare wave spread in Newton County, we just need for you to light the fire,” Hooker said to the council.
As for the potential cost for the childcare, Right Steps said that it currently charges $175 per week for an infant at their Remington location and that will increase over time to $284 a week.
“Quality childcare is not a moneymaker, our goal is to be self-sustainable,” said DeBruyn.