By Colleen Fedor, executive director of the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA
Allegheny County residents will have a chance to make a difference for local kids. By voting ‘yes’ to the Allegheny County Children’s Fund during this year’s General Election, children will gain increased access to early learning opportunities, after-school programs and nutritious meals – three proven areas that help youth reach success now and in the future.
When kids are set up to achieve greatness, the entire community wins.
As we inch closer to Election Day, we want to help Allegheny County residents stay informed, so they know what to expect and are ready to cast their vote when they head to the polls.
What is the Allegheny County Children’s Fund?
The Allegheny County Children’s Fund is a proposed amendment to the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter that would establish a dedicated source of funding to be used to support Allegheny County children through early learning, after-school programs, and nutritious meals.
Similar funds exist in about 30 counties across the country, including 10 counties in Missouri, eight counties in Florida and in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, San Antonio and a few rural counties in Ohio. All of the existing children’s funds have seen positive increases in the outcomes for the kids they were designated to serve, and the organizations leading the charge here in Allegheny County looked into each one, conducted extensive research and had many discussions to determine what a Children’s Fund in Allegheny County should look like.
Why should I care?
Supporting our kids and setting them up for success is important – not only for local children but for our entire community.
Currently, Allegheny County does not dedicate any funding to early learning programs and nutritious meals. Approximately $8 million is allocated to after-school programs. However, this annual funding only allows for a small number of youths to participate.
The Allegheny County Children’s Fund would expand on and increase access to these proven programs for kids all across the county.
- Early learning prepares kids for kindergarten, the workforce, society and life, and since 90% of brain development occurs before age five, getting started early is critical.
- After school programs don’t simply increase school attendance and reduce drug use, they help fuel kids’ passions, open their minds to new opportunities and keep our neighborhoods safe.
- One-in-six children is hungry in Allegheny County. This is one too many. Hunger impacts a child’s growth, overall health and well-being, and their ability to learn.
What is the cost?
The Allegheny County Children’s Fund will be established through a 0.25 millage rate increase to property taxes – an estimated $30 increase per year for the average household. This would generate approximately $18 million annually in revenue for the fund. The cost of a tank of gas is a small price to pay to reach our kids with critical programs.
The proposed charter amendment prohibits the county from using money from the Allegheny County Children’s Fund for other purposes. A third-party will conduct annual financial audits, and a public website will report all funding allocations to the community.
How will it work?
To make it work, the County Manager will establish and supervise the Office of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund. An advisory commission, made up of community volunteers with expertise in the field, would be established to provide counsel, but have no decision-making authority. After a budget is developed based on need, effectiveness, and fair and equitable allocations, our elected officials, the County Executive and County Counsel, will review and approve.
Where can I learn more?
It is our hope that Allegheny County residents will head to the polls Nov. 6, ready to cast their vote. I – and the other steering committee members for the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative – look forward to answering questions from our community.
How can I get involved?
You can help spread the word by volunteering at an upcoming canvassing day, displaying a yard sign, telling your friends about the initiative and liking us on Facebook. For more opportunities, visit our website.