kids playing in red wagon

Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative launches, aiming to change how kids’ programs are funded

NEXTpittsburgh – Would you spend about $30 per year to help local kids grow up healthier and lead more successful adult lives? Organizers of the new Our kids. Our commitment. Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative are hoping your answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”

This citizen-run initiative was launched today to begin collecting more than 40,000 signatures to qualify a question for the Nov. 6 general election ballot: Will you vote the Allegheny County Children’s Fund into law, requesting an amendment to the county’s Home Rule Charter creating a 0.25 millage rate increase to property taxes? If the question makes the ballot and a simple majority votes “yes” in November, the measure would pass.

The cost is very small, but the potential positive impact is large: A $25 increase annually on each $100,000 of assessed value, meaning someone owning a home at the county’s average market value of $137,000 would pay less than $30 toward the Fund each year. That would generate approximately $18 million annually, used toward priorities including early childhood education, after-school programs and good nutrition.

“This is about our kids,” said Patrick Dowd, a steering committee member of the initiative and executive director of Allies for Children, in a statement about the launch. “We believe that by giving our kids every opportunity to succeed, we’re giving our region a brighter future. Investing in our kids is an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.”

If the Fund is voted into law, the Office of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund will be established with a small staff guided by a diverse citizens’ advisory council comprised of volunteers. That staff would develop a strategic plan, goals and a competitive process for the distribution of the funds. Each year, the County Manager would incorporate the spending of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund into the annual budget of the County Executive, approved by the County Council. The fund would be financially audited by a third-party and all funding allocations would be reported online for the public to see.

Similar funds exist in about 30 counties across the country in states including Missouri, Florida, Texas, Ohio and California.

“When PUMP was presented with an opportunity to be involved in an effort to create more access for kids to start learning earlier, attend after-school programs and have healthier meals, we were absolutely all in,” said Lindsay Cashman, advocacy and public policy coordinator at PUMP and a steering committee member of Our kids. Our commitment. “We believe our future starts now. It’s time to make a commitment to all our kids across the county by creating the Allegheny County Children’s Fund.”

Here’s how the ballot question will read if enough signatures are gathered:

“Shall the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, funded by Allegheny County levying and collecting an additional 0.25 mills, the equivalent of $25 on each $100,000 of assessed value, on all taxable real estate, beginning January 1, 2019 and thereafter, to be used to improve the well-being of children through the provision of services throughout the County including early childhood learning, after-school programs and nutritious meals?”

On June 19, the group will host a kick-off signing event. Community members are invited to attend and sign the petition. Additional signing events are planned through Aug. 7, the cutoff date for signatures.

“We need everyone to raise their hands and commit to supporting our kids,” said Shenay Jeffrey, a board member at PUMP and the organization’s advocacy and public policy committee chair. “The Allegheny County Children’s Fund will ensure that all our kids are taken care of. Let’s work together now to build a stronger community and future.”

Read more here.