A childcare centre that was ordered on Jan 31 by the authorities to close in March, was told on Feb 3 that it can remain open, on the condition that the amount it owes be paid by March 7.
Character Montessori in Punggol was served a lease termination notice after owing the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) two months of rental fees.
After factoring in interest for the late payment and GST, the outstanding sum is about $72,000.
About 90 children are enrolled at the centre. There are four other centres in the pre-school chain, but they are not affected, according to Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao’s report on Feb 2.
The centre had been given “numerous e-mail reminders” and two “notices of demand” since Nov 10 last year, and was told its lease would be terminated on March 31.
Its founding principal Grace Yong told The Straits Times that after she e-mailed Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Feb 2 to appeal for help, the centre was told yesterday morning that it could remain open, provided it pay the outstanding sum, as well as the February rent of about $32,000, by March 7.
Responding to queries, an SLA spokesman said the centre had been “persistently late with rental payments” since February last year, and SLA issued 14 notices of demand,followed by four termination notices from May to November. However, these were withdrawn after the centre made late payment of its rental arrears.
Last December, SLA learnt that the centre was under receivership. After the centre did not pay rent that month and last month, SLA issued notices of demand.
SLA said the centre made a proposal to settle the outstanding amount, and “should (the centre) adhere to its proposal and settles all outstanding arrears, it can continue operating at the premises”.
The centre told parents on Feb 1 that two incidents had “drained our financial buffers significantly”. An administrator allegedly embezzled more than $120,000 over two years till the middle of last year, when the deed was discovered during a financial audit. She was sacked and has been arrested.
The centre has also had to pay more than double its previous rental rate, after bidding for its site at 420, Punggol Road, in 2014. The site was up for tender then as the centre’s lease was due to expire.
Ms Yong said she is “confident” of meeting the deadline to pay the amount owed. “We’ve taken cost-cutting measures since the last quarter of last year, such as reducing the headcount at our HQ.”
Said housewife Q. Ren, 34: “I’m somewhat relieved that the centre won’t close, as the teachers are really good. But I hope the management will keep to its promise (of resolving the issues). It’d be a pity if the teachers leave because of this.”