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La Vallee questioning child care bill

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La Vallee council is puzzled after being told it will be subsidizing child care on an 20/80 split with the province starting this year.

It isn’t sure if the $4,000 it’s been told to pay by the province will go to the private-owned day care centre operated at Crossroads School there, or be spread throughout the district.

Addressing the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual meeting here Jan. 31, Katherine Willson, with the Ministry of Community and Social Services in Toronto, assured that the municipal service manager (which will be the Rainy River District Ontario Works board here) will have no responsibility for independent child care centres.

But Bobbi-Jo Morken, operator of the Country View Child Care at Crossroads, said she received notice by mail that starting Jan. 1, the wage subsidy the centre receives from the Ministry of Community and Social Services would be taken over by a district board—and that the funding now would be coming from municipalities.

The letter also said that district board could negotiate “purchase of service agreements,” or subsidized child care spots. Currently, Country View offers no subsidized spots.

But if the funding is to go to the private-owned centre, La Vallee Coun. Emily Watson argued the township would have no say as to how the dollars are spent.

“We can’t. It’s a private business," she reasoned. "We have no right and no say.”

She stressed when the day care first went up there, the township declined to subsidize any of the spots.

“We chose not to be involved. But now we’re being told we have to subsidize wages,” Coun. Watson said.

And when Country View first opened, Morken noted it wasn’t receiving any subsidies from the province. In fact, it wasn’t until about six months ago that the centre started getting a wage subsidy (those dollars go toward wages as well as professional development).

And Dave Kozar, director of the Rainy River District Ontario Works office here, noted La Vallee isn’t the only district municipality in the position of funding a private day care centre. Atikokan is in a similar situation.

Kozar said it was his understanding that Country View now would have 20 percent of its bill picked up by the district board.

He added the province already has billed the board for the “downloaded” service, and now the board has to get that money from the municipalities.

Those bills, which will be equalized throughout the district municipalities, won’t be sent until the board, made up of six municipal reps, approves its 1998 budget.

Meanwhile, Morken wasn’t sure what impact the funding change would have on her day care centre’s operations yet—or its rates.

“If we can lower them, we will for sure," she said, admitting she didn’t think the municipalities would subsidize spots. "[But] we really haven’t talked with the municipalities.”

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