On Tuesday, just over half of Allegheny County voters rejected a property tax hike.
Organizers of the Children’s Fund say they would have used the revenue for child well-being initiatives, including early learning, after school programs and nutritious meals.
Initial results show that more than half of residents who voted down the measure live outside of Pittsburgh city limits. Results won’t be final for a few weeks, as ballots continue to be counted.
There were some exceptions, though. South Hills voters in parts of Mt. Lebanon and Dormont voted ‘yes.’ So did many Duquesne and McKeesport residents. In the north and northeastern parts of the county, precincts in Penn Hills and Fox Chapel, as well as parts of Ross and Bellevue approved the referendum question.
Many precincts throughout the county were decided narrowly either way. In Pittsburgh, several of precincts bucked the trend.
Eight districts in Pittsburgh’s ward 14 voted “no.” The ward stretches from Oakland, to Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze and Regent Square. Five districts in Homewood and East Hills also voted down the question, as did a few districts in Morningside and Stanton Heights.
Ten nonprofits that formed a steering committee wrote the ballot questions and the accompanying amendment that would have created an office to distribute the $18 million they anticipated the tax hike would raise. The amendment would have also created an advisory commission to oversee the process.
Patrick Dowd, the executive director of Allies for Children, one of the partner organizations, told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night that he was proud of the effort. He and other organizers thanked volunteers for their dedication and for running what he called a positive campaign.
“I think we are surprised by some of the opposition. It wasn’t what we expected,” he told the crowd at the Children’s Museum. “We expected a lot of people to say no to taxation. We expected that and we understand that. And that’s actually an argument that we can understand and that is reasonable if you really think about it. It’s some of the other stuff that just didn’t make sense to us.”
Critics of the measure said organizers did not allow for deliberation and input from the community. County Controller Chelsa Wagner urged voters to reject the referendum, saying the ballot questions raised too many questions.
Some critics, including the Education Rights Network and the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, also urged residents to vote no because the fund doesn’t guarantee that collected money will be spent equitably.
Tuesday night, organizers said the work wasn’t over. They said they would continue to work to eliminate opportunity gaps for children across the county.