63,499 people signed petitions to get a kids’ program on ballot in Allegheny County

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Advocates pushing for a quarter-mill property tax increase to fund children’s programs in Allegheny County have filed tens of thousands of signatures, aiming to put the measure on the ballot in the fall.

The “Our kids. Our commitment.” campaign filed 63,499 signatures Tuesday, the deadline to submit them to the Allegheny County Board of Elections.

Supporters of the measure estimate it will raise about $18 million annually to benefit early learning, after-school programs and nutritious meals for children in the county.

In a statement, the campaign said it has signatures from all 130 Allegheny County municipalities and every one of the county’s 1,322 voting precincts.

“It’s likely that there are people who will be scrutinizing these particular petitions,” said Chuck Pascal, an election attorney.The campaign needs more than 35,600 valid signatures from registered voters in Allegheny County to appear on the ballot; challenges to the signatures they submitted are possible for seven days.

“The support has been amazing. This is just the beginning, but thanks to the nearly 64,000 people who signed their name, we are one step closer to creating an even brighter future for all kids in Allegheny County by ensuring they have better access to after school, early learning and nutrition programs,” Colleen Fedor, executive director, The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA, and Our kids. Our commitment. steering committee member said in a statement.

If the issue appears on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, it will ask voters if the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter should be amended to establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, funded by levying and collecting an additional 0.25 mills, the equivalent of $25 on each $100,000 of assessed value beginning January 1, 2019.

If the measure has enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, “We’re just going to continue this conversation. We’ve had a lot of conversations, as the signatures indicate,” said Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, and an advocate for the initiative.

If voters approve the fund, it would be part of county government, under the Office of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund. It would have a a citizen advisory commission and funds would be distributed based on “(1) need, (2) effectiveness, and (3) fair and equitable allocation,” according to the language of the charter amendment.

Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.

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