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Advocates Want To Add Tax Increase To November Ballot To Fund Early Childhood Education

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Teacher Erin Martin helps Harmoni Bacon sound out the word "bat" at the YWCA Homewood-Brushton Early Childhood Development and Education Center in 2016. A group of organizations want to raise property taxes to fund early childhood initaitives.

A group of local organizations is hoping to include a referendum on the ballot in November to increase property taxes in order to pay for early childhood education programs. 

The coalition of 10 nonprofits plans to gather signatures to put the question on the general election ballot asking to increase property taxes by .25 mills. The increase would require property owners to pay an additional $25 annually on each $100,000 of assessed value. The groups anticipate the increase would generate about $18 million a year.

Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, said if approved the initiative “Our Kids, Our Commitment” would help fill gaps in areas that support childhood wellness.

“These are our priorities as a region, yet the funding for these programs, if there’s funding at all, comes from state and federal sources," she said. "We know, especially now, that is neither reliable nor sustainable."

The group must collect more than 40,000 signatures from Allegheny County voters between June 19 and Aug. 7 in order to add a question to the Nov. 6 ballot.

The referendum question would ask whether the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter should be amended to establish the fund beginning January 1 and disburse money beginning in 2020. The charter and state law requires a simple majority to pass.

If voted in, the Office of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund would be established with a small staff to formulate a strategic plan, goals and a competitive process for the distribution of the funds, which would be used for early childhood education, after-school programs and nutrition.

James Doyle with the after-school program Higher Achievement Pittsburgh says investing in local initiatives will help kids regardless of class, race or zip code.

“Imagine this world, this Allegheny County that we not only are providing our kids all of the opportunities to succeed, but we’re giving them the tools to thrive,” he said.