Optional fees introduced
Central Otago Kindergartens have broken with tradition and will start charging optional fees in the new year.
Eleven months into its financial year, the Central Otago Kindergarten Association reported a deficit of $127,000.
Association manager Angela Jacobson confirmed an optional fee would be introduced in January at all seven kindergartens in the region to help combat the deficit.
"The board of COKA have decided that we need to look to build our income. We've had a challenging year in terms of income and finances," she said.
From January 23, parents and caregivers will be asked to pay $1 per day or 50 cents for each half day their child or children attended kindergarten.
"We are introducing an optional charge to cover basically the cost of our 100 per cent trained teachers."
The Education Ministry funds to a maximum of 80 per cent qualified and registered early childhood teachers. Kindergarten had made a nationwide commitment to employ only qualified and registered early childhood teachers.
Parents and caregivers would be asked to sign an agreement to pay the fee during the enrolment process and would be billed monthly, she said.
In March, the association floated the idea of introducing a donation which would have been difficult to enforce so they had introduced an optional fee which fell within Ministry funding rules, she said.
She did not think parents would feel pressured to pay the fee.
"If they don't want to pay it they don't have to."
Association president Gigi Hollyer confirmed the deficit for the 2012 financial year was significant and said they were looking at other ways to decrease expenditure.
"We are introducing the fees for a reason . . . we do need to increase our income."
Following cuts to government funding two years ago, the association had introduced several cost cutting measures to improve sustainability but that was not enough, she said.
Research had been done to ensure fees were set at an appropriate level and at the lower end of that scale, she said.
"We want to make it achievable for people . . . if people opt in and buy it that is going to be a really good situation for us."