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Clay day-care costs rising

Jayne Cote already raised her weekly day-care fees $5 per child this year because of federal aid reductions and increased insurance costs. Now the owner of Tender Moments in south Moorhead is considering another rate boost, this time because of a...

Jayne Cote already raised her weekly day-care fees $5 per child this year because of federal aid reductions and increased insurance costs.

Now the owner of Tender Moments in south Moorhead is considering another rate boost, this time because of a licensing fee being debated by Clay County commissioners.

Clay County Social Services officials asked commissioners Tuesday to consider establishing fees to offset county costs incurred by performing day-care background checks and facility inspections.

The department initially wanted the county to charge providers $150 biannually.

Clay County commissioners Ben Brunsvold and Kevin Campbell said that's too high.

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Brunsvold is concerned an increase would further burden those least able to afford it, and Campbell is concerned a fee boost might cause fewer people to provide day care.

The county has preformed background checks and facility inspections for free in the past.

However, because of reduced state funding and the increasing cost of performing background checks, Social Services officials want to recoup some money.

"We get no state funding to do those tasks," said Rhonda Porter, supervisor for Clay County's Child and Family Services.

"When we are already dealing with budget cuts in the social service area, we don't have any additional funds to pay for the increased expenses of background checks, which are required for licensure."

The county spent about $11,000 on background checks from Jan. 1 through August.

The Legislature allows counties to recoup a maximum of $250 a year per provider for licensing-related fees.

Cote said she wouldn't mind paying a $50 fee to help offset the cost of performing background checks, but not $150 biannually.

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"There is already a shortage of day-care providers in the area," she said. "Adding more costs to an already underpaid service would only deter providers from starting a child-care business, or worse, be one of the deciding factors on why not to be licensed."

The care provider said she wouldn't pass a $50 fee for background checks on to customers. Additional costs would likely be paid by families.

Most families pay between $90 to $100 a week for day care, Cote said.

Clay County has 192 licensed care providers. A November meeting with providers is being planned to discuss the potential fee.

"They could probably afford an increase," Cote said of her customers. "But it would be a hardship for all of them. Five dollars a week adds up."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535

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