Tuesday night Clarkfield opened their Truth in Taxation Hearing and Council meeting to a packed room of citizens, brimming with questions and feedback on the small towns future needs. Administrator Amanda Luepke detailed the property tax history during the taxation hearing, showing the city levy going down in 2018 and 2019 but with a 9.59% increase in 2020, Luepke explained the increases intent is to offset the cost of the Clarkfield school project.
Moving into the regular meeting liquor licenses were approved, as well as the 2020 budget, the 2020 levy at 423,366.00, an option agreement for the school gym structure purchase, but the biggest takeaway that seemed to be on all the citizens minds was the Tiny Sprouts daycare.
It was made public just before Thanksgiving, the school would be closing its doors on December 5th after one last week of servicing local parents. The hope is the daycare will reopen, but without a minimum of one lead certified teacher, the preschool cannot make meet the state requirements to keep serving the community. The current lead teacher that was keeping the program floating, gave a two week notice just before the holiday. “The reason the daycare is closing is a lack of required staff” said Luepke, “We don’t have a choice at this point, the state won’t let us operate without a lead teacher”. To be fully functioning five days a week, the school actually needs three lead teachers.
“We have increased the pay but its not as much if they would go to a place that is being subsidized by more than the revenues taken in, its heartbreaking for the community, the daycare board will be working with the city on solutions of what to do next” lamented Luepke. “Why didn’t we get the grant money?” was shouted from the citizen group, another resident said “We all want to know”, they were referencing a recent Bush foundation grant application submitted to help get the daycare get on track, the funds were not awarded. “I dont know why we didn't get the money” said Luepke, going on to note “We submitted our application, it went to a committee, they offered that we had to make some changes to the grant, we made those changes, it went back to committee, in the interim of that happening, that process, it’s not an overnight thing, the staff person that was at Bush that was rooting for us, left and we got a new representative, a young male with no kids, and didn’t see the viability of a daycare, he shut it down. Thats what happened with the grant.”
Luepke addressed the group “It’s this wicked circle of you want to pay the daycare staff $16 hrly which is what she got offered to go to another facility, we can’t afford that, and if we needed to afford that, a $3.50 raise, we have to charge it to the parents that then makes it so astronomical they cant afford to send their child to daycare, its this vicious cycle”, noting that legislators need to get involved in this dilemma as small child education, preschools, are not currently subsidized, financially supported or supplemented by the government.