The Town of Marana is backing away from a budgeting decision to end funding for summer camps.
It'll offer three sessions of summer camp this year. They'll cost more than a year ago. And they'll accommodate fewer children.
But they were not funded in the original 2010-'11 budget proposed by a town administration that has been grappling with a tight spending plan for months. The town council made the "slight change" to that suggestion last week, asking for a "modified summer camp program that full recovers the town's costs," Mayor Ed Honea said.
"We heard from a lot of parents," Honea said. "We want to give parents the opportunity to make adjustments."
Tom Ellis, director of Marana's parks and recreation department, said his staff is setting up sessions of summer camp June 1-11, June 14-25 and a longer session July 6-23. All are being held at Coyote Trail Elementary School. Each is able to accommodate 110 children and 10 "inclusion" or special needs students.
In the past, each Marana summer camp session has served approximately 370 children.
"We are anticipating more demand than space," Ellis acknowledged.
Participants are being chosen by lottery. A family can register each child, and if their name is pulled, "all the kids are in the program," Ellis said. They can pick which session of camp they'd prefer. Marana residents are being given preference.
Enrollment is $120 per child for the two-week sessions, $160 per child for the three-week session. Generally, until this year a two-week session cost parents $80.
"Our prices are just break-even," Ellis said. "We're not going to make a nickel."
Registration for the camp lottery opened Monday, and closes April 30. Parents and guardians may go to the town's Web site, marana.com, get a registration form off the site, fill it in, and return it in person, by e-mail or fax. "They can't call them in," Ellis said. "We need the paperwork."
When registration is received, the town will send back a notice of confirmation. When the drawing is held, parents are being notified of placement. "It's pay as you go," Ellis said.
"The reason we're able to do it is because a number of our employees took the separation incentive package," Ellis said, voluntarily ending their employment with the town. "The dates they chose are at the end of the summer. We have enough of those holdovers to maintain our ratio, camper to counselor. We try to keep that 20-1."
Will Marana offer summer camps in the future? "We'll do a hard look by the end of the year," Ellis said. "We're not saying completely 'no' to summer camp. We're going to see what other providers step in to fill the gap."
Marana Unified School District and the YMCA offer summer camps in the community. "Both have inferred they are looking to see how they can expand their programs for the years to come," Ellis said.