Children’s Fund ballot initiative fails in Allegheny County

The initiative would have raised $18 million annually through a property tax increase.

12 fund failed election 2018
Incline Illustration / Photo: Michael Coghlan Flickr

Countywide voters rejected the creation of an “Allegheny County Children’s Fund” that would have raised $18 million annually for early learning, after-school and child nutrition programs by increasing property taxes roughly $25 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

While the only countywide ballot question obtained enough signatures — 63,499 in total, well beyond the 40,000 required — to land on the ballot, in the end it didn’t garner enough support from voters who cast their ballots today, with the measure ultimately failing.

With all precincts reporting, the Children’s Fund initiative failed 52.02 percent to 47.98 percent, a difference of 20,039 votes, according to early and unofficial results.

The ballot question had been a controversial one here despite its uncontroversial aim of improving the well-being of county children through “the provision of services […] including early childhood learning, after school programs, and nutritious meals…”

Critics of the measure, including the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors, pointed to a lack of communication from the fund’s backers and to unanswered questions about how the fund’s advisory commission would be appointed, how $18 million in annual revenue would be overseen, and how the fund would be structured.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in May that while he favored the idea of a dedicated children’s fund in Allegheny County, he opposed a property tax increase, the only funding mechanism available via ballot referendum.

Supporters of the measure, meanwhile, said a dedicated fund for children and youth programs is sorely needed here. They pointed to long waiting lists, large numbers of children in homes with annual incomes below the federal poverty line, and demand for preschool programs that well outpaces supply.

The initiative in support of the fund’s creation was spearheaded by 10 nonprofits, including Allies for Children and the United Way of Southwestern PA, and it benefitted from more than $1 million in contributions from local nonprofits that serve youth, PublicSource reported.

“Our work will not stop here. We know these services are needed for our kids, and we’ll continue working together to find a solution for Allegheny County,” said Patrick Dowd, Allies for Children executive director and steering committee member for the initiative.