A plan to raise $18 million in funding for the creation of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund is one step closer to reality.
“It’s humbling but in many ways not surprising,” says Dave Coplan, a steering committee member and the executive director of the Human Services Center Corporation, about the citizen-led initiative’s success. “In conversations, many people said it was a great idea. And a lot of people thanked us for doing this.”
On November’s ballot, county residents will be asked to support a .25 mill tax increase, which equals $25 on every $100,000 of assessed property. Per the initiative’s calculations, the increase for the average homeowner will be less than $30.
If approved, the measure will generate approximately $18 million for early learning, after-school and nutrition programs.
Our Kids. Our Commitment. is comprised of a coalition of caregivers, non-profit agencies and other organizations involved in children’s issues and care. More than 200 volunteers canvassed the region between June 19 and Aug. 7, collecting signatures from each of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities and 1,322 voting districts.
According to the organization’s charter, resources from the measure will be distributed throughout Allegheny County based on need, effectiveness, and fair and equitable allocation.
The initiative met with enthusiasm from a cross-section of communities.
“We have people who signed who live in areas where’s it’s clear that they’re far better off than in a depressed community,” he says. “They think it’s a good idea, too.”
The proposed initiative is similar to those implemented in Portland, Oregon, Missouri, and Dade County, Florida. Coplan admits that he sometimes appealed to potential signatories’ pride, letting them know that Cleveland has a similar initiative in place.
“I said that a lot in my conversations with people,” he says with a laugh. “People in Pittsburgh love healthy banter about Cleveland.”
The next step is waiting for the elections commission to examine the signatures and approve the measure for the ballot. Then, the second phase of campaigning will start in weeks before the November election.
While support for the initiative is welcome, Our Kids. Our Commitment. has not sought endorsements from elected officials.
“We don’t want people to perceive this as a Democrat or Republican or Independent or any other party issue,” Coplan says. “It’s a kids’ issue and it should concern all of us. I’ve talked with many elected officials, people who are Republicans and Democrats in this country, and various officers at each level, and the majority of them think it’s a good idea.”