The Sacramento City Council, faced with closing 4th “R” after-school programs at four Sacramento City Unified School District campuses and cutting ties to another after-school program, voted Tuesday night to support a plan to keep the programs intact.
The 8-0 vote, with Councilman Rick Jennings recusing himself, came in support of a compromise crafted by the city and representatives of Sacramento City Unified to help reduce an impending $1.5 million deficit in the 4th “R” and the free after-school program, START.
START, which is funded largely by state and federal grants and about 10 percent from the city’s general fund, faced a projected $1 million deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Jennings asked for the recusal because he heads a nonprofit that could contract with the city school district.
The 4th “R” program, supported largely by parent-paid child enrollments, faced closure at Golden Empire Elementary in Rosemont, Caroline Wenzel Elementary School in Greenhaven, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary in College/Glen and O.W. Erlewine Elementary in Larchmont Rivera due to what city officials said would be a $458,000 deficit after July 1.
The 4th “R” was tied in part to declining participation. The four sites serve fewer than 190 children. Ninety percent of support for the program comes from parents and guardians.
Shortly before the vote, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby told a packed room of supporters of the two programs that the City Council would not let them down.
“I see this as something tried and true,” Ashby said. We have been doing it. We need to stick it out.”
Eric Guerra, who recently won a City Council seat representing one of the affected 4th “R” campuses and was sworn into office earlier in the meeting, made the motion to accept the agreement worked out between the city and the school district.
“Amen,” Mayor Kevin Johnson said after Guerra offered up the motion.
Councilman Steve Hansen called the solution a “work in progress” because the compromise is intended to sustain the programs for the next year while both agencies work out a longer-term fix.
City Parks and Recreation Director Jim Combs told council members the school district would waive the monthly lease payments for both 4th “R” and START at the district’s Serna Center.
The school district has put the savings to the city at approximately $190,000 for the two leases.
The district also would work with the Sacramento Chinese Community Services Center to provide fee-based child care at Caroline Wenzel Elementary starting in the fall, according to a city report. That would save the 4th “R” program about $118,000 in operating expenses.
The district asked the city to keep the other three 4th “R” sites, Golden Empire, Bancroft and Erlewine elementary schools, open through the end of the next fiscal year to allow time for the district to find child care at those sites, according to city officials.
The district also agreed to increase its START contract by 2.5 percent, or about $62,000.
The city would save additional funds by reducing the level of services to the minimum required under the START program. That could reduce programs such as youth sports.
In addition, City Manager John Shirey recommended that the city include $340,000 in next year’s fiscal budget to cover the 4th “R” program through June 2016.
Christina Pritchett, trustee for the Sacramento City Unified School District, told council members she was pleased with the expected passage.
“This is not the end,” Pritchett said. “We still have a lot of work to do. But I really appreciate the collaborative effort with the school district.”
Under the compromise, the START after-school programs are expected to continue at 17 of 18 campuses. Bret Harte Elementary has plans to look for another service provider for the after-school program.
START began in 1996, fostered by then-City Councilman Darrell Steinberg. Within three years, it grew to 42 schools serving 7,000 students, offering homework help, recreation and literacy education.
The program is available only to schools that qualify for at least 50 percent free and reduced-price meals.
The 4th “R” faced shortfall also in part because of higher employee costs and declining enrollments as parents move their children to the free after-school programs at those campuses.
Golden Empire, Bancroft and Erlewine all have free START after-school programs operated by the city. Wenzel has a free program offered by an outside vendor.
Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.