Alberta parents to feel impact of Alberta YMCA budget crunch

Growing Alberta YMCA faces tough financial crunch
WATCH ABOVE: It's budget time at the Alberta YMCA. The charity's growth is a sign of success but, as Kendra Slugoski reports, there are financial pressures like higher minimum wage, ahead.

The YMCA of Northern Alberta has started budget talks and the charity says its growing success has created some challenges for the year ahead.

Annalise Yuzda, vice president of Child Care, said food costs have increased and minimum wage is going up on Oct. 1.

READ MORE: Alberta low-income earners can benefit from more than a minimum wage hike: experts

“It’s hard,” Yuzda said, “because we have to pass those costs onto the family because that’s the only revenue stream we have.”

“We don’t make any money off child care — our biggest cost is staffing.”

In 2012, 46 program with 1,900 children were operating in Northern Alberta. This year, the number spiked to 75 programs with staff caring for more than 3,600 kids.

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The YMCA said despite the growth, it still has extremely high satisfaction rates from parents and is proud to be the largest provider of child care in Western Canada.

READ MORE: Child care pilot program having impact in southern Alberta: childcare centre

“The $25-a-day child care really helped with the early years and that has expanded our programs,” Yuzda said. “We’re at capacity with huge waiting lists.”

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Old YMCA building in downtown Edmonton to get new lease on life

Out-of-school care programs are also stretched to the limit — the YMCA said every time a new school opens, it is approached by local boards to offer child care but finding staff has been a major challenge.

 “There’s not a lot of people going into early childhood,” Yuzda said. “The pay is one of the reasons. It’s a tough job.”

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The YMCA will no longer be offering free memberships to its recreational centres for kids in care. The membership gave access to drop-in care and swimming lessons at the recreation centres.

“We don’t have any profit to deal with some of the challenges we’re facing,” said Kent Bittorf, vice president of Health Fitness and Aquatics at the YMCA.

Bittorf said about a quarter of all the child and youth memberships were being utilized by kids in care; about 2,000 members.

“In some cases, those children that were receiving a free membership were taking a spot in a capacity-based program, resulting in the YMCA looking at turning away other individuals,” Bittorf said.

READ MORE: Alberta child care centres seeing waiting lists hundreds-long

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, a child and youth membership will cost a child in care about $40 per month. That membership is not mandatory and to help ease the transition, the YMCA said it is offering 10 per cent off bi-weekly child or family continuous membership rates.

One 10-visit family punch pass will also be offered.

The YMCA said it does not want to turn anyone away from a membership if they are unable to pay. Financial assistance may be offered to help cover the cost.

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