Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Aaron Trujillo wasn’t expecting sticker shock when he started searching for an affordable day care center for his 1-year-old daughter last month.
Trujillo, 30, and his wife both work for a Las Vegas apartment management company and make a combined $72,000 annually. When his wife returned to her job as a real estate agent in November, Trujillo began looking at putting their toddler, Bealla, into day care.
The Trujillo family looked at three preschools near their central valley home. The first charged $240 a week. That’s $960 a month -- the equivalent of a rent or mortgage check for many Southern Nevadans.
“It was ridiculous,” Trujillo said. “That’s really not affordable.”
After much searching -- even checking Craigslist for cheaper child care -- the Trujillos settled on a Kidz Kidz Kidz preschool near Tropicana Avenue and Jones Boulevard. The family was swayed by a special deal of $140 a week.
Still, with their older son Andres, 10, in a Safekey afterschool program and Bealla in preschool, Trujillo estimates he will spend about $800 a month for child care on his two children. “It’s still really pricey,” Trujillo said.
His observation is on the mark.
A national study found that Nevada has among the highest child care costs in the country. The Silver State is among 31 states nationally where child care costs could exceed the cost of college tuition and fees, according to a 2013 report from the advocacy group Child Care Aware of America.
The average Nevada family spends between $4,980 to $9,608 on child care. The amount fluctuates based on the age of the child. Infants, who require more care, will cost more than school-aged children to place in day care.
With tuition and fees at UNLV costing about $6,500 a year, a Nevada family will pay more to put an infant through day care than a young adult through college classes. (Note: Both calculations exclude living expenses, which will vary between an infant and teenager.)
In Nevada, the cost of putting an infant in day care accounts for 13 percent of a married couple’s median income of $71,934. Nationally, Nevada ranks 11th in the country for infant and toddler care cost as a percentage of median family income.
Average child care costs nationally range from $4,863 in Mississippi to $21,948 in the District of Columbia.
Child care costs vary widely based on a number of factors, including cost of labor, cost of living expenses and state regulations, such as the teacher-to-child ratio, according to the report. Nevada law requires one caregiver for every four children younger than 9 months old, one caregiver for every six children between 9 months and 18 months old and one caregiver for eight children between 18 months and 3 years.
Regardless of the reason, poor Nevada families and single-parent households suffer the most from the state’s high child care costs.
For families living at the federal poverty level -- $19,090 for a family of three -- the cost of putting an infant in child care could be more than half of their income, according to the report.
For a single-parent household in Nevada, child care costs can be about a third of the family income.
Tracy Jacobson would know. The Las Vegas-based mail carrier is a single mother who is spending $160 a week to put her 5-year-old son, Mac, in preschool.
Mac, who turned 5 this fall, was about a week shy of making the cutoff date to enter kindergarten. Because Mac couldn’t attend kindergarten and because his neighborhood elementary school doesn’t provide free early childhood classes, Jacobson, 43, was forced to pay another year of day care.
For Jacobson, who makes about $55,000 a year as a U.S. postal worker, the cost of putting Mac in preschool will set her back about $7,680 for this year, or about 14 percent of her income.
“I was really stressed out when he missed the kindergarten cut off by eight days,” Jacobson said. “It’s difficult being a single mom of four kids. It’d be nice if we could get some help.”