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Kids Zone: $40K in the hole?
After school program goes from surplus to deficit
In this 2008 photo, Kids Zone site supervisor Judy Dolo prepared children for a presentation on the Woodward School sage. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Closer cost accounting of the Kids Zone program following concerns voiced by private sector day care providers that the city was unfairly competing against them shows the after school offering might actually be a drain this fiscal year on the distressed Manteca municipal general fund.

The original city number crunching of the Manteca Parks & Recreation program conducted when the controversy first arose indicated that Kids Zone generated $296,710.96 in the 2009-10 fiscal year ending last June 30 while indirect expenses were pegged at $179,464.60. After factoring in in-direct expenses for support staff and such the actual “net” was about $20,000 for the last fiscal year.

Since then the city has been tracking this year’s expenses and revenues closer. A mid-year budget report indicated that Kids Zone may actually operate at a $40,000 loss by the time the current fiscal year ends in four months.That loss doesn’t reflect any additional costs the city may occur - if any - in the process it is now undertaking to secure state licensing as a day care provider.

That means the program once touted as helping support other recreation programs that come up short due to efforts to keep costs low may actually need an infusion of additional money itself in order to not go into the red.

The Kids Zone controversy has prompted staff to revisit how recreation programs are paid for in Manteca.

In the past eight years, participation in Manteca Parks & Recreation programs has jumped 13.1 percent to nearly 15,000 registered participants a year.  That does not include those involved in special events staged by the department or permitted park uses such as use of group picnic shelters.

The city reports that the fee based programs had a:

• net operating loss of $203,910 in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

• net operating loss of $12,439 in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

The net loss for the fiscal year that ends June 30 is expected to hit $146,280.

The Manteca municipal budget includes a $200,000 annual transfer from the general fund to help cover fee-based program losses.

With Manteca needing to slash expenses by $4.5 million to match revenue projections in the fiscal year starting July 1, the fee-based programs are going to come under closer scrutiny that may force the city to re-examine its philosophy of keeping prices low via general fund subsidies to make programs available to more people.

The Manteca Senior Center is separate from the recreation program budget. It takes $180,163 annually in general fund receipts to operate the senior center.

The city’s share of library services is also part of the recreation budget. The city covers maintenance, operating costs, and some additional staffing to the tune of $126,115 a year.