My Turn: Community Collaborative speaks to May 19 election | SierraSun.com
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My Turn: Community Collaborative speaks to May 19 election

Alison Schwedner
Director
Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee

On May 19, Californians are being summoned to vote on six ballot measures in a special election, the end result of an epic struggle to pass the remaining 2008-09 and 2009-10 state budget. California is the only state in the country to require more than a majority of the legislature to approve both a budget and raise any state taxes, known as the “2/3 requirement.”

In efforts to reach this supermajority and backfill an estimated $40 billion budget deficit, behind the scenes deals and negotiations resulted in the six ballot measures now on the table. Call it “Ballot Box Budgeting” and it brings the task of balancing the state budget to your own front door.

The May ballot measures are complex, the ballot language is misleading, and services for children and families are in jeopardy regardless of voting results. The state budget is predicated on the six ballot measures (Props 1A- 1F) passing. If the ballot measures do not pass, we can expect further cuts to health and human services, education and key services in the “May revise” budget. If the ballot measures do pass, we will see services for young children and their families slashed. Thus, it is a zero sum game.

What does this mean to us in the Tahoe Truckee community? The local impact is difficult to determine. TTUSD has prudently planned for the “worst case scenario” version of the state budget ” so whichever way the May ballot measures go, the current budget deficit amount of approximately $4 million is not expected to increase.

A couple of the ballot measures will affect community services directly. If voters say yes to Prop 1D, we will see cuts in programs for children and families in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Prop 1D would divert funds away from early childhood development programs and services currently funded by revenues from a tobacco tax passed in 1998 known as Prop 10. Locally, school readiness programs which have been proven to close the achievement gap, increase long term school success and help children enter kindergarten prepared to learn would be cut. The Truckee and North Tahoe Family Resource Centers would lose funds in upcoming years, directly impacting their ability to serve children and families in the community. Programs at risk also include a Truckee home visiting program, enrichment classes focusing on early development provided through the FRC’s and funding for the KidZone.

Prop 1E proposes to divert funds from the 2004 voter approved Prop 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act. The depth and breadth of the local impact is not yet known. Programs at risk include services provided by Sierra Family Services, including intensive case management for individuals at danger of homelessness, incarceration or hospitalization due to their mental illness. Bilingual/bicultural mental health services are also at stake at Lake Tahoe. The Family Resource Center in Truckee will also feel the impact if Prop 1E passes ” as mental health services disappear, FRC staff become overextended as they struggle to meet the needs of community members with mental health issues.

This is a no win situation. It is a difficult time to imagine our local non profits taking further cuts, and services to community members being further reduced. Both Family Resource Centers are assisting record numbers of people. It is also difficult to imagine that as a collective, we would vote to pull programs for our most vulnerable populations.

The choices our Legislators are asking us to make on May 19 are difficult ones. We are being asked to reconsider our decisions we voted on in the past. We are being asked to pull money from programs that we know help make our families healthy, our students successful, and our youngest residents thrive. As a community, the best we can do is to become informed and educate others. Be mindful when you go to the polls May 19 or mail in your absentee ballot, because children and families in our neighborhoods will feel the effects of the decisions we all will make for years to come.

The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee is a partnership of non-profit and public organizations working together to address fundamental needs of families in the Tahoe Truckee Region. Collectively, we identify emerging community issues and develop strategies with our combined vision and resources. For more information contact alison@communitycollaboratoive.org or call 587-1776.


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