Located at 3650 S. Glebe Road, Melody Tavern was a bar/restaurant that hosted live music. It closed in October 2012 after 10 months in business.
The space is now being renovated and will become the new location of the Crystal City Children’s Center. The parent-run cooperative child care center opened in 1987 and is currently located at 1900 S. Eads Street.
The new location will allow Crystal City Children’s Center to expand from 64 to 108 children, according to Luellen Matthews, director of the center. Among other features of the new center will be a state-of-the-art secure entryway, she said. Workers could be seen yesterday taking down old Melody Tavern signs and replacing them with Children’s Center signs.
“We expect to re-locate by late October,” Matthews told ARLnow.com.
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
As ARLnow.com reported last week after an enormous public outcry, the Arlington County Board has decided not to accept a proposal by the Arlington County Manager to save roughly $250,000 annually by cutting the additional staff Arlington needs to enforce stricter child care standards for Arlington childcare facilities.
What prompted the County Manager to make this proposal in the first place? What are the most important lessons to be learned from this experience?
The County Manager made this proposal because she was instructed last November to make recommendations for cuts in the County’s operating budget that added up to one half of the then estimated $50 million shortfall in the budget. She was looking for ways to cut about $25 million out of the operating budget. This proposed $250,000 cut represented only one percent of the savings she was trying to achieve, yet she proposed the cut anyway.
I believe the County Manager made this recommendation in good faith because it was her way of trying to cope with the lack of willingness by the County Board to reduce or eliminate the huge expenses associated with financing projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, and the Clarendon dog park. With those projects and others like them “off the table”, the Manager was forced to reach out for a relatively small projected saving in an area like this.
The many Arlington consumers of child care services revolted and shone a light on the risks of gutting Arlington’s child care guidelines. But, those risks were well known, or certainly should have been well known, beforehand.
This $250,000 skirmish over childcare guidelines is just a taste of much more dire cuts to Arlington’s social safety net that are in the offing in future battles over the FY 15, 16, and 17 budgets unless the County Board fundamentally alters its current trajectory of layering one overly-costly capital project after another onto a budget beset by revenue shortfalls due to the flat commercial real estate sector of Arlington’s economy.
Claims that some of these capital projects, like the Columbia Pike streetcar, don’t impact Arlington’s operating budget because they are funded by a “special surtax on commercial property that can only be used for transportation”, are just plain wrong. These supposedly special capital projects do indeed affect Arlington’s operating budget adversely. There is “no such thing as a free lunch.”
The same commercial property owners who pay this special transportation surtax also pay the regular real estate tax that funds the bulk of Arlington’s operating budget. If the Board continues to impose this special transportation surtax at the maximum rate, while also continuing to raise the regular real estate tax rate that directly funds the operating budget, these commercial property owners will pass these costs on to Arlington consumers of their products or services, or they will move to greener pastures in Tysons.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
The recommendation, one of numerous spending cuts in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, was met with controversy. Hundreds of parents and residents signed a petition against the elimination of Arlington Child Care Office, which would have turned inspections over to the state and resulted in more lax oversight.
The county issued the following press release about the Board’s decision tonight.
Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today said that the County will continue its inspections of childcare centers and family childcare homes and will continue to train providers. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended in her Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that the County eliminate childcare inspections and provider training.
“The Board is committed to maintaining Arlington’s inspections of childcare facilities and training for providers,” Tejada said. “Although most localities in Virginia rely on the State alone to conduct inspections of childcare facilities, Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspections and training for providers – and the Board is committed to continuing both of those elements.”
Tejada made his statement at the start of a Board public work session on the Department of Human Services’ proposed FY 2014 Budget. In her Proposed FY 2014 Budget, had recommended that the County rely on the state to inspect childcare centers and family childcare homes, and cut provider training, as part of her effort to cut costs across departments. The proposed cuts to inspection services had raised concerns within the community about the safety of Arlington’s childcare facilities.
The measure would have saved about $250,000 per year. The County Board will approve a final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on April 20.
A group of residents is organizing to oppose a proposed cut to child care regulation in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget.
Donnellan’s budget, which is under consideration by the County Board, cuts the county’s Child Care Office, which regulates local daycare centers. Three full time positions would be eliminated, saving $250,000 annually.
If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated, and oversight of such daycare centers would be returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which opponents say has weaker standards than the county. In addition, family daycare centers with up to 5 children are not regulated by the state and would instead go unregulated.
“The County Code and Child Care Office PROTECT our children by requiring small home daycares to be licensed and by requiring SIGNIFICANTLY higher standards for all settings,” says the petition page. “Investing in early childhood is SMART ECOMONICS: research has shown high quality early care and education significantly decreases major social and economonic problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school and adverse health conditions.”
The petition was started by Sandra Redmore, director of the Clarendon Child Care Center.
In addition to eliminating local oversight of the county’s dozens of licensed daycare providers, the closure of the Child Care Office would eliminate professional development programs run by the office.
Child Care Office supporters are being asked to register today to speak at the upcoming March 26 public budget hearing.
Photo via Arlington County