The decision is part of a series of measures needed to make up for a $2-million cut in provincial funding. Capping the number of subsidized spaces is expected to save around $189,000 a year, creating a waiting list of about 50 families.
Catherine Matheson, general manager of community development, said priority will be given to lower-income families who are trying to get an education or find work, as well as families with children with special needs.
And Tyler Campbell, the city's manager of children services, said similar waiting lists are common across the province. While some communities have gotten an increase under the province's new funding formula, most had already capped the number of subsidized spots they offer.
“We've been fortunate over the last few years, in that we were one of the communities without a wait list,” Campbell said. “Overall, some communities have gotten an increase – so they've been able to get some children off their waiting list. While other communities have had to expand their waiting list.”
But Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino said these sorts of budget situations are becoming too common, where the province cuts funding, and the city has to find a way to deal with it.
“It's almost like being in a schoolyard, and you're face-to-face with someone who wants to fight, and they're taller and a few pounds heavier,” Cimino said. “We can't do anything except take the punches. It's hard to swallow.
“This is definitely going to have a negative impact on our community.”
Under the new system, priority will be given to families most in need, with people earning less than $20,000 a year at the top of the list. Families with a child with special needs would also get priority, as would “families who are deemed to be in crisis, with a completed referral and with manager approval,” the staff report on the new policy said.
The amount of the subsidy will be determined by an income test and other eligibility policies. In 2012, the local subsidy served about 2,735 children at a cost of $10 million. The committee passed series of measures – including the waiting list – in June, cutting costs to make up for the funding shortfall.
“Families who have an annual net taxable income less than $20,000 will be fully subsidized and do not pay a parental contribution,” the report says.
Families whose income is higher than $20,000 pay monthly fees, which increase incrementally with income. For example, families who make $30,000 pay $83.33 a month, while families who make $110,000 pay $1,916.67 a month.
In 2012, the city subsidized daycare costs for 1,874 families, of which 78 per cent were single-parent families. Half of those who received subsidized care had household incomes below $20,000 a year, while 46 per cent made between $20,000 and $60,000.
“There is a projected a wait list in 2014 of approximately 50 children if demand for child care and the demographics and child care need of applicants remains stable,” the report says.
“Based on the priority levels... the small number of eligible families with incomes (more than) $60,000 will be the most significantly impacted. However, some families with lower incomes will likely also have to wait for child care subsidy.”