Maple Lawn Preschool in Albany may have gotten a 12-month reprieve.
The preschool, which is funded in part by the city of Albany, was on the chopping block as part of the city’s budget process, which likely will result in cuts to several city departments. Parents and teachers spoke out against the closure during a Tuesday meeting of the city's Budget Committee, citing Maple Lawn’s 40 years in the community and the short notice parents received, making it difficult to find other placements for children before the new school year.
But Marilyn Smith, the city's communications officer, said the Budget Committee has been offered a possible solution that could keep Maple Lawn open.
Smith said proposed increases in fire and ambulance fees could provide $132,000 to cover the city’s subsidy of Maple Lawn Preschool for one year while the school explores other options. The possible solution has been proposed to the committee, but it has not yet taken action, she said.
At Tuesday’s budget meeting, Councilor Alex Johnson, a member of the Budget Committee, asked if Maple Lawn had recently increased its tuition, which ranges from $100 to $175 per month based on the class level in which children are enrolled.
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Parks and Recreation Director Ed Hodney compiled a 10-year history of the preschool’s rates showing the last tuition hike was in 2017 and compared Maple Lawn’s rates to other preschools in the area. According to Hodney, preschools ranged from $110 to $235 per month.
According to Smith, members of the Budget Committee have indicated that tuition increases would have to be considered as part of any deal to keep Maple Lawn open. The Budget Committee makes recommendations on the city's budget to the full City Council, which must approve it by the end of June.
Maple Lawn is funded in part through the Parks and Recreation budget. The proposed city budget says that the direct costs for the preschool are expected to be more than $480,000 over two years. The preschool's revenue, however, is forecast at $210,000, leaving a deficit of more than $270,000 over the next two years.
At its meeting Wednesday night, the City Council approved the increased fire and ambulance fees as part of an effort to avoid layoffs at the Fire Department and identify other sources of funding for the city. The increased fees will generate about $900,000 over two years, Albany Fire Chief John Bradner said. The $132,000 tentatively earmarked for Maple Lawn would come from those fees.
The Budget Committee is set to meet again on Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30 at Albany City Hall. Public comment will not be taken at that meeting, but written comment can be sent to Smith at her email address, email@example.com. Residents can watch the meeting live on Comcast Channel 23 in Linn County and Channel 28 in Benton County.