Childcare centers running $253,986 deficit

By CHELO GRUBB

Pima Community College’s three Child Development Centers are more than a quarter-million dollars in debt, accumulating a 2011 fiscal year deficit of $253,986 by early March.

The college, which is facing a $9 million loss in state funding for fiscal year 2012, will close the three childcare centers in June as part of its cutbacks in personnel and programs. The centers are located at Desert Vista, Downtown and West campuses.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Marketing Rachelle Howell said choosing which programs to cut boils down to one question: “Is it mission critical?”

“If it’s a cost center that’s not a mission-critical service, then anything that falls into that category is on the table for discussion, given the current budget situation,” Howell said.

PCC subsidized childcare center deficits of $262,804, $345,531 and $372,914 for fiscal years 2008-2010, according to budget documents Aztec Press obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Nearly half (47.7 percent) of the parents who placed children in the centers this spring were either non-students or part-time students with a light course load, according to information provided by the college.

Spring 2011 semester statistics show 33.9 percent of parents are community members, not students, Public Relations Coordinator Paul Schwalbach said.

Nearly one quarter (21.1 percent) of the parents who are students are taking one course or courses that total three or fewer units, Schwalbach said. Of those students, 46.6 percent are taking personal improvement courses in the Fitness and Wellness discipline.

However, students who depend on the childcare services are protesting plans to close the centers.

PCC student Genie Cavazos has a 2-year-old daughter who has been enrolled full time in the Desert Vista child development center since November.

Since hearing about plans to end the program, Cavazos has written a letter to the Desert Vista campus president, e-mailed other PCC parents and asked students to sign a petition.

“This is a shock,” Cavazos said. “I just thought, maybe if we were to petition they would try and think of another option.”

She thinks the college could try alternative options, such as increasing fees or reducing hours.

Howell said fees charged would have to increase substantially to cover the debt. The college has not determined a precise figure, but Howell said it would need to “double, triple, quadruple.”

Still, Howell said PCC would like to return childcare services to students eventually.

“We’re going to have to shrink the college so that our expenses match our incoming revenue. It will be years before we look at adding services back in,” Howell said.

In the meantime, parents are looking at other daycare programs.

Cavazos said she really values the education her daughter gets through the PCC program.

“I’ve been looking around, and it just doesn’t seem that any of the other childcare centers are in the bracket,” she said.

News Editor Debbie Hadley contributed to this story.

This is a corrected version of our print story.

Genie Cavazos, left, asks Julie Gregory to sign a petition against the closing of PCC childcare facilities. Ana Ramirez, Aztec Press

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