MOUNT KISCO, N.Y.-- Noam Bramson, the Democratic candidate for county executive used a visit to the Mount Kisco Child Care Center to criticize County Executive Robert Astorino for increasing parental contributions to child care.
Bramson, mayor of New Rochelle, toured the care center on Aug. 22. Under Astorino, parental contributions have increased 27 percent, which has led to criticism and lawsuits from Democratic legislators. Astorino's administration has also curbed admission to Title XX, which supports people on higher incomes.
These cuts "are cruel and unfair." Bramson said. "But its not just that – it’s lousy business decisions. (The cuts) have cost thousands of dollars for the people who can least afford it. We need to change how we structure our spending.”
Bramson said increasing parental contributions was a dumb choice.
Dawn Meyerski, the program director at Mount Kisco Child Care Center said the contribution increase has hurt the poorest families.
"They've had to borrow money to send their kids to child care," Meyerski said.
Meyerski said the increase has forced them to increase scholarships to low-income families, which means there are less scholarships to middle-income families.
"It's a trickle down effect," Meyerski said. "These people are getting squeezed. They are just trying to make a living and survive. They are not sitting at home collecting welfare checks. We are trying to do right by these families."
Meyerski said they have asked Astorino to come down to Mount Kisco Child Care Center and sit in on their director meetings.
"It's become impossible for us to survive," Meyerski said. "He claims to be supporting these small businesses, but how is he helping us? We are not supporting a candidate, we are just dealing with the issues."
Meyerski described Bramson as a "good listener", who understand the challenges the Mount Kisco Child Care Center was facing.
"Parents end up putting their kids in unregulated programs," Meyerski said. "They are generally not high quality."
Ned McCormack, the communications director for Astorino, said since parental contributions were increased, enrollment in child-care increased. The contribution increase was necessary to keep the program solvent.
He said curbing Title XX admission has also opened up the programs to be more families. He said he hasn't heard of families taking their children out of child care because of the contribution increase.
"We haven't found that out to be the case," McCormack said. "We saw an increase in families in fact."
McCormack said Astorino regularly meets with the county's Child Care Council. The county budgets more than $30 million for child care.
"We are committed to helping families take advantage of these programs," McCormack said.
Westchester's child-care parental contributions are still below the level in New York City, according to McCormack.