Last week, the First 5 Contra Costa Commission reviewed the draft of our new strategic plan, which will guide approximately $53 million in investments from fiscal year 2016/17 through 2019/20. The Commission will vote on adopting the new strategic plan at the October 5th Commission meeting.
As with all of California’s First 5 commissions, we too are dealing with a significant decline in our Prop. 10 tobacco tax revenue. This decline is not new or unexpected; we planned for it.
For several years, we’ve been using discretionary funding from our fund balance to offset reductions and maintain full funding for programs. This model has served us well, particularly during the Great Recession, but it simply isn’t sustainable. By the end of 2020, we will have depleted our fund balance. Our ability to get external funding has helped extend our work, but it will never be enough to make up for the decline in Prop. 10 revenue and end of our fund balance.
Our current five-year plan, which ends this June, was developed during the Great Recession and in the midst of severe budget cuts for California’s safety net programs. We decided during that challenging time to keep our funding levels as high as possible, and we did, investing more than $71 million.
A Brighter Climate
The picture now, while not totally rosy, is certainly brighter than it was five years ago. The economy is recovering and some programs decimated by budget cuts have been partially restored. Last year’s state budget process was the easiest in recent memory. Perhaps most exciting is the traction early childhood development funding has currently, from federal and state preschool initiatives to those addressing the “word gap” for low-income toddlers. First 5 has always been on the forefront of early childhood issues. It seems the rest of the nation is catching up, and opportunities abound.
Still a Declining Revenue Source Continue reading
The Fresno Superior Court heard oral arguments last week on the legality of AB 99, which circumvents voters and allows the state to take $1 billion of voter-approved Proposition10 tobacco tax revenues from local health and early education programs for young children. AB 99 was passed as part of the state budget solution last fiscal year, although the eventual budget approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown no longer included the use of First 5 funds. Continue reading