In-home day care providers upset over Idaho Falls regulations
IDAHO FALLS — Local in-home day care providers are saying the city’s regulations are cutting into their business.
Several Idaho Falls day care providers say a home occupation ordinance that has been in place for years is just now being enforced. As a result, some day cares, are now serving fewer children.
“It wasn’t an issue until this last year,” provider Leisa Reeser said.
But city officials say the law has been in effect since the 1960s and they’ve been consistent in enforcing it.
Idaho Falls Community Development Services Director Brad Cramer said the city is currently doing all they can to enforce the rules, but city resources can’t be expended patrolling for day cares that may not be in compliance with city code. He said there are other priorities to deal with.
“I would argue that we’re consistent about it, and until somebody can show me where we’re not, then I’ll stand by that. If somebody can show me the file where we’ve been inconsistent, then I’ll address it,” Cramer said.
Reeser found out about the limitation when she went to register her day care again last year. She’s unsure why the limit was applied then if the law has been in effect for so long.
Reeser has been running a day care for 26 years and has consistently been licensed with the city and state. She said the amount of children she was allowed to have in her home at one time was 12, but since the enforcement of the home occupation rule last year, that number was reduced to 10.
The crux of the dispute is the home occupation ordinance. It states that only 25 percent of a person’s main floor can be used for an in-home business. In addition to that, in-home day care providers are only allowed to have one child per 35 square feet within that 25 percent limitation.
Cramer said he knows children won’t be isolated to a small space so the city decided to intermingle the rule with fire code restrictions.
“What we did is we borrowed a little bit from the fire code,” Cramer said. “What they require is 35 square feet per person.”
He said there are three day care categories — family, group and center. A family day care can host one to five children, a group six to 12, and a center 13 plus. Cramer said just because a day care is seeking to be in the group category, it doesn’t mean the size of their home qualifies for the 12-child maximum.
Cramer said home occupation rules are to ensure the residential character of the neighborhood stays intact even while running a business from home.
“If I drive by that house that has a home-based business, I really shouldn’t know that it’s there,” Cramer said.
On Thursday, in-home day care provider Taylina Rigoulot approached the City Council to make a public comment about the issues. She proposed the council consider amending the current home occupation ordinance.
“We would just like to get this on the agenda to maybe have some of this looked at and be changed,” Rigoulot said at the meeting.
The ordinance also does not allow employees or substitutes in an in-home business, making it hard to plan for personal circumstances.
“When you’re in your home like this, it’s really hard. We have to close and inconvenience everyone that we baby-sit for just to go to a doctor’s appointment for our own kids or anything that may come up,” Rigoulot said.
“We’re providing for our families — some of us, we’re single moms. We have no significant other (who) lives with us to help that income.”
Rigoulot told EastIdahoNews.com most of the in-home providers she’s aware of don’t have homes larger than 1,400 square feet, so those local day cares couldn’t carry 12 kids at one time if they wanted to.
“Technically according to these rules, none of our in-home day cares should be allowed more than 10 kids, and what sense does that make? This is why a lot of people quit doing their licensing or didn’t even do the city’s and kept watching kids,” Rigoulot said.
In addition to the home occupation policy, the city has enforced its own municipal day care regulations above what is required by the state. City officials say this enforcement has been happening for about 10 years.
Cramer said the city didn’t feel the state’s standards were enough to ensure children’s safety.
“That’s what it came down to, that there wasn’t enough supervision and care being provided by the adults in that business,” Cramer said.
Providers feel because of the seemingly increasing and overlapping regulations, many day cares are going underground. Complaints are arising that the city isn’t consistently regulating day care providers. Cramer argues there is underground services in any level of government.
“You also need to enforce the illegal aspect of it,” Reeser said. “There’s nearly a hundred day cares on Craigslist and other places that you can find.”
Reeser added that having harsher regulations not only affects the families they are serving, but it also has a heavy impact on their income.
“We’re not asking for 15, 20. We just want our 12. When our enrollment is down even by one or two children, that cuts into our income by $1,000 (monthly) or more in some cases,” Reeser said. “We are being legal. We’re following the city’s legal system by paying our fees, our taxes, maintaining our homes so the children are safe here, and a number of different things.”
She said she is a single mother and only has one source of income.
“We’re providing for our families,” Reeser said. “Some of us, we’re single moms. We have no significant other (who) lives with us to help that income.”
Reeser added that the limitation is making it hard for those who need part time service, or those who have babies or toddlers who need one-time care.
“Drop-ins or part-timers, nobody wants to take them because if you’re limited to how many kids you can have, then you’re going to take the full-timers and the bigger money,” Reeser said.
During the City Council meeting Mayor Rebecca Casper said Councilwoman Michelle Ziel-Dingman is the liaison over community services in the home occupation ordinance. She said those with concerns should approach Ziel-Dingman to meet and discuss the parameters of a policy change.