Head Start gets reprieve on lease hikes

The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission voted in a called Thursday meeting to delay proposed lease hikes at the Chester Hynes Community Center so that the Head Start youth services organization might get a head start on budgeting for the increases in 2013.

Head Start Director Lee E. Meadows told commissioners that the agency can’t currently pay proposed monthly hikes totaling $1,100. Meadows said the local Head Start doesn’t receive as much funding per child as does other groups elsewhere, and financial losses have necessitated cutbacks in operations here. The proposed lease covers the period of Aug. 1, 2012-May 31, 2013, which Meadows said is contrary to his agency’s year-long budgeting plan that begins each April.

“We can’t afford more money for the monthly lease or maintenance agreement,” Meadows said. “We don’t have any more money right now.”

He added that planning for the 2013 budget wasn’t scheduled to begin until late 2012.

The board was seeking a tripling of Head Start’s $500 monthly lease to $1,500, and a roughly 67-percent, $100-a-month jump in the annual maintenance agreement from $1,500 to $2,500. Meadows said the increases would probably be absorbed if the national Head Start organization, which directs funding of the local group, was given advance notice of the proposal.

Following a suggestion by Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker, the board agreed to delay the hikes contingent to Head Start giving up a multi-purpose room at the community center. Parker said Head Start is not leasing the additional room, but wound up gradually taking possession of it by consistently hosting activities there.

Meadows agreed to vacate the room, which Parker said can be rented for such purposes as family reunions, birthday parties and wedding receptions. Parker figures such events could generate monies that might offset funds lost by postponing the proposed Head Start hikes.

Meadows agreed to begin holding talks with Parker on the proposed lease increases beginning in August.

In other business, the board authorized Parker to enter negotiations with Sports Floors Inc. for resurfacing a basketball court at Hynes. The company’s base bid on the project was $35,737.