Ironwood church asks childcare center to operate separately

All Saints Little Lambs Childcare responds to concerns over possible closure
Courtesy: Our Lady of Peace Church
Courtesy: Our Lady of Peace Church(WLUC)
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 2:29 PM EDT
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IRONWOOD, Mich. (WLUC) - An Ironwood church is responding to concerns in the community about the possible closure of a childcare facility that operates inside the parish.

Our Lady of Peace Parish sent a letter recently to All Saints Little Lambs Childcare saying that “it would be in the interest of the parish and the daycare program to no longer operate as one entity.”

In an email, All Saints Program Director Kim Anderson said that she is “not financially able to take on this facility with the additional demands the parish wants of rent payments, utilities, content insurance, general liability, etc. as I currently pay these through the Michigan Catholic Conference which is obviously cheaper than going out on your own as this is a huge organization.”

Residents are concerned because All Saints Little Lambs childcare is one of the few daycare options in the area. In an email, Anderson said “We are the last childcare center in Ironwood, only two in Gogebic County and we service Iron County as well. "

Our Lady of Peace Finance Committee sent a statement to TV6 saying:

Our Lady of Peace Parish and the Diocese of Marquette regrets that the misleading information sent to parents last night regarding the impending closing of All Saints/Little Lambs Daycare which caused pain and stress to many. The communication was sent without the knowledge or input from the Diocese, the OLOP Finance Council or the pastor. The church has never intended to close the childcare but is working to transfer it to operate as a separate entity.

The finance council is currently working with our current director Kim Anderson on the transfer to a separate entity. Our Lady of Peace Parish hopes have an answer by the end of August. If she is willing, the parish will continue to support the childcare as the transfer takes place. Our Lady of Peace is hoping to get this completed by October 31st but if needed we can extend to December 31, 2022, as per the decision of our August 2nd meeting.

Over the past three years the childcare’s rapid growth is more than the parish administration and staff can handle. The parish does not have the staff or the expertise to run a childcare facility. The increase in bookkeeping and payroll are the reasons for considering a separate tax id which would be beneficial for both entities. Currently the church and the childcare can’t have separate bookkeeping under the same tax id. Our Lady of Peace also has concern for the liabilities involved with running a childcare because eventually it would come back to the church and Diocese.

Our Lady of Peace has never expected a profit, requested rent, or charged for the additional bookkeeping and payroll from the Little Lambs Childcare. Money has not been a contributing factor in this decision. Going forward we will request a commonsense lease from the new entity to help support the maintenance of building, so operations can continue.

Our Lady of Peace understand the value of the childcare to the community and to the children that is why we intend to look at every possibility to create a successful transfer to a separate entity.

According to Anderson, the childcare facility currently has 36 employees, 189 children currently enrolled and 91 children on a waitlist.

In a statement sent to TV6, Kim Anderson said:

We are self-sufficient however we benefit from being under the large non-profit umbrella of the Michigan Catholic Conference. One example of the extreme difference of pay that would fall on me is insurance for the bus which is needed for the after-school program as the Ironwood School District is unable to drop at the facility although the children live within an actual bus route. The point is currently I pay $1,600 for a year under Catholic non-profit umbrella while owning my own that changes to $900 A MONTH.

I would also like to mention that I have been asking for financials from the parish which would state in the financial committee meetings (I was not allowed to attend) that the center is running in the red. So, there is misappropriation of our grant funds which I have acquired over 500k since 2020. However, I am not allowed to see our payroll documents, benefits that we pay for employees, my utilities bills or bank statements, how can I run a center within a budget or find the hole (if we were in the red) if I was not given the tools to find the hole and fix it.

It is sad that the Parish office and the Childcare office could not follow the guidelines we set up for two eyes to see the financials, however the parish only kept the copies and I had to run blindly. The playing field was unfair and talked about many times within our childcare council meeting. Although it was discussed and agreed I should receive the information, I still did not. The miscommunication between both entities under one tax i.d. number is lacking terribly and should have been corrected back in 2019 when they decided to close the school and I convinced them to give the childcare a year to show its vitality and it has.

We have used no money from the parish for any utilities, taxes, unemployment, payroll, general liability insurance, retirement, unemployment, w/c insurance, and other payables attached to the childcare facility. We do benefit with cheaper costs due to being under the Diocese umbrella as the employees of All Saints will lose their health insurance, retirement, and any other benefits that the childcare does pay just at the discounted rate from me going out on my own. They wanted me to give them an answer on proceeding with the takeover however they have released no financial information to me to see if it is a sound financial decision. They will not discuss which accounts the childcare would hang on to as the income, fundraising, memorial fund, as well as grant funding is the childcares, the church holds all these funds at this time.

I did receive an email last night that the parish is willing to extend the date of closing until 12/31/22, to give me time to find possible stakeholders or backers to help with the expenses we would now not be able to afford. So, this is a positive step forward. I would like to see the Diocese take us under their umbrella separate from the parish as it was when we had a Catholic School in that location that was closed in May of 2020. At that point the childcare and parish were on their own from the diocese in regards to bookkeeping and to put that on one church secretary that does not know the aspects of childcare was an unfair situation from the beginning, however every fix we put in place to help with communication and bookkeeping the parish has never enforced and so we sit today with a possible closure lurking over us that will devastate a community which was finally on the path of growth.”

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