One year to the day after the City last brought a proposal seeking to assess a $250 annual fee upon home day-care providers, the exact same proposal reappeared before the Human Services Committee on Tuesday night. In this case, what a difference a year did not make. Though the members of the committee have changed, the proposed fee met a similar fate: tabled indefinitely.

Home day-care providers lined up to speak in opposition to the additional fee, including many who appeared before the committee on Jan. 5, 2009. Marsha Fincher and Beryl McCanton, who said they have been day-care providers for 20 and 30 years respectively, urged the City to remove the fee or, if assessing a fee, to remove a limitation on the number of children permitted in a home day-care setting. The current limit of eight (ten if two are after-school only) leaves “no room for growth,” both said at different times.

Former Alderman Edmund B. Moran, who sat on the Committee in 2009 and made the successful motion to remove the fee at that time, spoke against the fee again on Tuesday night. The fee was “directed at the most vulnerable,” he said, adding, “This has to happen – there has to be care, and it has to be good.” The profit level for home day-care providers is not large, he said, and a $250 fee would not be “de minimis.”

Joanna Spilioti, a home day-care provider in South Evanston, said that fees that forced providers to increase rates would give the competition in Rogers Park and Skokie an advantage. She has already considered moving across Howard into Rogers Park, she said. “DCFS does not charge a fee even though they do a more rigorous inspection,” she added. She also referred to the possible loss of local spending of parents who drop off and pick up children at Evanston home day-cares and who stay in the area to shop – a loss to the City if these parents shift to Skokie or Chicago providers.

Another theme from 2009 that resurfaced was potential duplication of services by various agencies. The State Department of Child and Family Services inspects and licenses home day-care centers and “then the City turns around and duplicates the same service,” said Ms. Fincher. She added that, while the state and City both require medical exams, the City refuses to accept a copy of the state exam, also
apparently requiring its medical exam at a different time from that of the state,
forcing providers to pay for two exams rather than one.

“I was surprised to see this item on the agenda,” said Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who sat on the Committee in 2009. “Just because we have people available does not mean we have to send them out … and ask people to get a physical when they’ve already gotten one.” He moved that the item be pulled off the agenda “until we’ve done more homework.”

Alderman Jan Grover, 7th Ward, said the state’s interest in the health and safety of children is aligned with the City’s, and therefore the two entities should work together rather than duplicating services. She also expressed concern that there are currently child-care providers who are “off our radar because of permitting [because of required permits]. I’d like to get them on the radar, and a $250 fee will be a disincentive.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, returned to issues she championed in 2009, saying the issue was public safety and inspections cost money. “It has to be paid for; somebody has to pay for it,” she said. At the same time she asked why the City has a different limit – eight kids per home – from that of the state, which bases the number of children allowed on the space available. Carl Caneva from the City’s Human Services Department said that decisions regarding the number of children permitted were driven by the City’s ordinance, not state law.

The vote to remove the proposed ordinance from the agenda passed unanimously.