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View From the North: Northern California Counties Attempt to Raise Revenue for Childcare

Publication date: 
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

During the June 2018 election, residents in a few Northern California counties will consider ballot measures that intend to create childcare program subsidies for low- and middle-income families. Advocates of the ballot measures hope that these subsidies can alleviate families of the high cost of childcare, help parents get back to work after the birth of a child, and better prepare children for preschool.

Alameda and San Francisco Counties Head to the Ballot Box

In Alameda County, Measure A proposes a half-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for and expand existing childcare centers, recruit and train teachers and increase the availability of home-based childcare centers.

In San Francisco, Measure C will impose a 3.5 percent tax on commercial rents over $1 million a year. The City of San Francisco already subsidizes the cost of pre-school for all four-year-olds and utilizes 4 percent of its property tax revenue for after-school programs, job training and youth services. However, San Francisco lacks programs available for children as young 3-months old. Additionally, Board of Supervisor Norman Yee asserted that over 2,500 low-income families are stuck on the waiting list for childcare. Measure C will expand childcare and preschool programs to serve all low- and middle-income families in the area.

The two ballot measures will help Alameda county and the city of San Francisco each raise over $140 million annually for childcare programs. However, Alameda County’s proposal to rely on sales tax revenue a more dependable stream of support than San Francisco’s tax on commercial property. Nonetheless, Measure A faces a significant hurdle, requiring a two-thirds of voters to cast a “Yes” ballot. In contrast, San Francisco’s Measure C only requires a majority of “Yes” votes to pass.

Other Proposals on the Table

The City of Oakland, Contra Costa County, Yolo County, Santa Cruz County and San Joaquin County are all considering various measures to address the need for accessible, affordable and quality childcare. Voters in the City of Richmond in Contra Costa County will consider a “youth measure” during the June election. In addition to childcare, the measure will fund early childhood education and services to young people up to the age of 24. The proposed ballot measure will set aside 3 percent of the city’s general fund.

For the November 2018 election, the City of Oakland plans to introduce a new parcel tax to fund preschool and other children’s programs for low-income families. Because the City of Oakland is part of Alameda County, Oakland taxpayers will be funding both Measure A and the new parcel tax if both measures are approved.

Santa Cruz and San Joaquin are taking a different approach to funding childcare programs. Both counties plan to create new taxes on marijuana sales to fund child care for families who cannot afford it.

While Northern California cities and counties have been very active in introducing childcare initiatives, cities and counties all over California face similar issues in relation to accessibility, affordability and high childcare. Funding the Next Generation, an organization dedicated to addressing issues affecting children, hopes that Southern California cities and counties will also consider initiatives to provide greater childcare programs. Funding the Next Generation will be providing the tools necessary to create these initiatives by hosting a free conference in Los Angeles this June.

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