Governorand#8217;s proposed budget threatens First 5 Placer Services, Truckee Tahoe programs | SierraSun.com

Governorand#8217;s proposed budget threatens First 5 Placer Services, Truckee Tahoe programs

Special to the Sun

AUBURN, Calif. and#8211; Governor Brown’s proposed budget calls for taking $1 billion in Proposition 10 funds from First 5 and#8220;reservesand#8221; in 2011-12, as well as half of all future First 5 revenues from tobacco taxes. Such a plan would decimate critical supports for our youngest children and their families. Proposition 10, which voters approved in 1998 and voted to uphold in 2000 and 2009, provides for a 50 cent tobacco tax to be used to promote early child development. Studies show investments in early childhood are some of the soundest investments any community can make.

The Governor’s use of the term and#8220;reservesand#8221; is controversial. and#8220;Most First 5 county commissions, including First 5 Placer, do not have reserves,and#8221; said Janice LeRoux, executive director of First 5 Placer Children and Families Commission. and#8220;Most of our dollars are committed to contracts funding services with nonprofits, schools and other service providers that cover much-needed services for children. However, the State calls them and#8216;reserves’ because they are not being spent in the current fiscal year. This is an example of government trying to pull funding for future services into the current year.and#8221;

Because the Commission recognized early on tobacco taxes were a declining source of revenue, the First 5 Placer Commission has always managed its funding in a conservative manner, budgeting for multiple years based on current funding available. First 5 Placer’s fund balance for 2010/11 was $11.9 million. Of that, $10.9 million is being used for current contracts, committed to multi-year initiatives and set aside to sustain funding for the current strategic plan, which runs until June 2016.

and#8220;First 5 understands that everyone must contribute to solving the state budget crisis, and the county First 5 commissions are more than willing to do so,and#8221; stated Dayle Edgerton, First 5 Placer Commission Chairperson. and#8220;First 5 county commissions have already made significant contributions toward meeting needs that the State has been unable to cover, such as children’s health insurance for families without coverage and childcare for low-income working parents. But this proposal will cause irreparable damage to services for children in our county, including preschool and other school readiness efforts, health care for children, and successful child abuse prevention efforts. It further dismantles the safety net for vulnerable families that have already been hard hit by state, county and local budget cuts.and#8221;

Examples of First 5 Placer funded programs serving residents in the Tahoe area include:

Family Resource Center of Truckee: Expanding community legal program to Tahoe to help low income families with young children who need legal help.

Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee: Building collaborative networks, systems and connections to reduce duplication of services, saving the county money.

Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum, KidZone Museum: Providing enrichment activities, interactive play, child development and parent education.

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: Providing school readiness classes at Kings Beach Elementary so young children will be ready to succeed in school.

North Tahoe Family Resource Center: Linking families with young children in Incline Village, Nev., Kings Beach and North Tahoe to resources to help solve the unique challenges they each face.

Statewide, First 5 California funds school readiness programs targeting children ages 0 to 5 and their families in schools with an Academic Performance Index (API) score in the lowest three deciles statewide. These schools include children who speak diverse languages and are from varying cultures. Kings Beach Elementary School is one such school with school readiness program thanks to First 5 support. Principal Eileen Fahrner is very concerned about the potential cuts the program. and#8220;The School Readiness program at Kings Beach elementary is essential because it helps prepare our students to be ready to enter Kindergarten. Without it, our teachers would have to spend even more time trying to get some of the kids caught up so they are ready to learn. There is so much research that demonstrates that a child who is ready to learn when entering Kindergarten is much more likely to be more successful throughout their school years and into adulthood.and#8221;

The Prop 10 fund diversion contradicts the centerpiece of the Governor’s proposal.

A major focus of the Governor’s budget aims to restructure government by transferring responsibility from the State to local governments where there is more accountability and direct oversight. This and#8220;realignmentand#8221; would move funding and programs closest to those who deliver and receive the services. Critics of the diversion of First 5 county funding argue it contradicts the Governor’s goal by moving First 5 county funding to pay state programs with no local control. and#8220;It takes funding away from county First 5 Commissions, which have always been locally controlled,and#8221; said LeRoux. and#8220;First 5 Placer rigorously reviews each local program we fund, and we hold each funded program accountable.and#8221;

The move could also mean the potential loss of 85 jobs in Placer County. For example, funding for preschool programs for low-income working parents would be cut, which would result in teacher lay-offs as well as job losses by parents who would no longer be able to work due to elimination of child care. This further hurts the State’s economy with increased unemployment and higher unemployment compensation costs.

and#8220;First 5 exists because the voters understood and#8212; when they originally passed Prop 10 and when they twice rebuffed efforts to overturn it and#8212; that it pays to invest in our children,and#8221; said LeRoux. The last attempt to divert First 5 funds (Proposition 1D in 2009) called for a diversion of half the revenue for a period of five years. This time the diversion would be permanent. and#8220;Taking local funds dedicated to ensuring that children are safe, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and in life is not an appropriate way to balance the state budget. The budget should not be balanced on the back of children. Kids should always come first. Period,and#8221; stated LeRoux.

and#8220;First 5 Placer has carefully managed finances to ensure that the investments we make in children’s programming can be sustainable and impactful,and#8221; added Dayle Edgerton. and#8220;We live within our means and have always been conservative with our funds. The state, unfortunately, does not do the same and now wants to penalize our children for Placer County’s prudent fiscal stewardship. If the state permanently diverts current county commission funds plus half of all future revenue, little will remain to meet the needs of children and families that large bureaucratic programs are unable to meet.and#8221;

and#8212; Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.com

The First 5 Placer Children and Families Commission is an autonomous, self-governing commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The purpose of the Commission is to promote, support, and optimize early childhood development, prenatal through age five. For more information on First 5 Placer, visit http://www.First5Placer.org.