Here are Angelique Ashby’s comments at the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Parks Budget Hearing on May 17:
Thank you, Mayor. I’m going to attempt to get a couple of my questions answered, but if it starts to get too deep I’m happy to meet you offline a little bit before this comes back for adoption, but I’m pretty concerned, and I would say that my concern has run along the same line as Councilmember Hansen’s — it feels to me, and know we’ve sort of known that this was coming, I think we need to have a larger conversation about START and 4th “R” because what I notice is a lot of times here people talk about 4th “R” and START as if they are the only after-school programs that exist on these campuses, and what they really need to undrstand is some of what you explained today . . . we’re actually applying in some instances to be a provider, which means if we pulled out, others would be the provider. At least as long as I’ve been here, there have not instances where we left families high and dry. We finished out years, we put money towards districts like District 6, and then other groups took over and came in.
One of the problems I have seen in looking at this is that there are other programs that are free to the families. 4th “R” is pretty expensive. If youre not a family that receives subsidy [and] you have a couple of kids in that program, it gets pretty expensive pretty quick, so if there are other programs (not provided by the city at all, but other entities that are providing programs) that are free, we’re competing from a disadvantage point.
All of that being said, I think the bulk of the 4th “Rs,” a big chunk of them, are in my district — but that relationship with Natomas Unified has worked better, quite frankly, than with some of the other school districts, because I’ve seen over the last few years other school districts come to us and ask us to continue to provide service without paying us, and I just don’t think we can do that. I think if that’s the model for after-school programs, then we have to get out of that business, because how do we in good conscience continue to pay for something that the school district and/or the County is supposed to be reimbursing us for? It’s frustrating enough that the State hasn’t upped the ratio since inception and so we’ve had to fill that gap.
I just think we need to have a broader dialogue so that people don’t think that we’re abandoning after-school programs and childcare, but rather that we’re trying to figure out if this is something that makes sense for the City of Sacramento to be in business in doing this. I particularly think it does not make sense when [sites are located] outside of the city and we’re subsidizing programs [at those sites], and the last number I heard was [$]800,000, that we were subsidizing to the tune of [$]800,000, or that the County at least owed us $800,000 annually that they hadn’t been paying us in terms of subsidy for the START programs happening operating outside the city limits. I would think taxpayers would be outraged by that. We just raised Measure U funds . . . you [Councilmember Jennings] asked about how to get more kids jobs, there’s $800,000 worth of jobs.
I can tell you, you went through your volunteer hours — I don’t know how many of them are mine out of the district, I’d be willing to bet it’s a darned lot, a really lotta lot, and I know that I double-pay for [Landscape and Lighting district] crews out of Natomas-specific funds, so I know I’m doubling up on how many kids are getting hired, and everybody up here is asking about how to get more funding to do some of those things that are happening in Natomas, 400 youth doing volunteer hours and these crews out there giving it their all and getting awards and winning statewide programs — you can’t do it when you’re bleeding out $800,000 that the County should have been paying to us.
I just want to make sure that we’re having a conversation that takes the lid off of this moving forward . . . I think some of the line of questioning that Councilmember Hansen was presenting is extremely important moving forward. We have to make better decisions on these things. Of course we all want after-school programs. We all want to make sure there’s childcare. Nobody wants to leave any family, in the county [sites] or out of the county [sites], high and dry. We’re not pulling out of anything mid-year — we’re not going to do anything like that — of course, we would never do that. But we also can’t be in a business that we shouldn’t be in if it’s costing us in other areas. It’s frustrating to watch you give two halves of a report where one half is really desperate for funding and the other half we’ve been subsidizing, and you’re even presenting subsidies again this year for those programs that we’re voluntarily going into knowing that we’re going to have to subsidize them partway through the year, when there are other private entities or other non-profits or other lower cost solutions for folks.
All of that said, it’s not that I don’t think we should do it — I think we just need to have a really careful conversation about it and make sure that . . . people are fully informed on if we don’t do 4th “R” at a school, what are the other options? Because I know everybody up here is going to say“ I don’t want my school to not have an after-school program,” but often that’s not the case — we have pulled out of 4th “R” in the past in other schools, and just another program has come in, whether that’s Target Excellence or ACES or whatever it is, but there are programs all over Sacramento that are subsidizing in.
It looks like, I think, last year you said there were 30,000 volunteer hours — it looks like just under 9000 of those hours came through that guy right there sitting behind Shannon, the parks department in Natomas with youth, so that’s roughly a little under a third of your volunteer hours came out of one district. That’s what you can do with a really small amount of money working with a whole lot of kids and a parks crew that’s willing to take it on. I think it’s worth noting.