Fees at the Charles E. Warford Activity Center in North Amarillo will be soon be raised following a unanimous vote by the Amarillo City Council.

This week, the city council voted to raise after-school rates at the Warford Center to $170 from the current rate of $20 for facility members, in addition to an increase from $30 to $190 for nonmembers. Fees will be raised in two parts, including one increase on January 1, 2020, and a full increase to the eventual rate on August 1, 2020.

Prior to this week’s fee increases, the after-school program at the Warford Center was seen as an affordable after-school care option for working families in North Amarillo.

Although the council unanimously approved the fee increases, the vote did not come without opposition from the community. Brad Torch, a former Amarillo City Council candidate, opposed the fee increases, saying the vote primarily hurts lower-income Amarillo citizens.

“It disproportionately hurts families who are already struggling financially,” Torch said. “There are other ways to offset costs that doesn’t affect those who need the assistance the most.”

Amarillo resident Jerri Glover also announced her opposition to the fee increases when they were first proposed, saying the increases are unfair to taxpayers who utilize the facility.

“To increase the cost of services 700 percent for nonmembers and 500 percent for members is criminal,” Glover said.

However, Mayor Ginger Nelson said she supported the fee increases, saying the council can see the “writing on the wall” regarding cost recovery for programs.

“The City cannot provide the services at this great of a subsidy across the board,” Nelson said.

A final vote on the fee increases is expected next week.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.