The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to put another youth funding measure on the November ballot. Voters rejected similar proposals in 2016 and 2020, but advocates say the need for consistent funding for youth programs has increased over the years.
If voters pass the ballot measure, the city would use the “equivalent” of 40% of the cannabis business tax revenue annually from the general fund for youth programs. That would amount to about $10 million a year for services such as mental health counseling and after school activities, according to a staff report.
While the funding mechanism differs from past versions, advocates from the nonprofit SacKidsFirst say the money would still go to a children’s fund. An oversight committee would give recommendations on how to spend the fund on youth development and violence prevention programs.
Margarita Rodriguez, who spoke to CapRadio through a Spanish translator with SacKidsFirst, said the measure could help support her children’s emotional and physical wellness through activities such as soccer, dance and music.
Rodriguez said her 6-year-old daughter, Sarai, wants ballet clothes and money for lessons. If the youth measure is approved, Rodriguez said the city could help pay for that and other growth opportunities for children.
“They need programs that can help them develop their sense of self-confidence,” said Rodriguez, who lives in a South Natomas mobile home neighborhood. “Programs that help them feel safe in the community and that help them feel supported.”
The city spent about $38 million on youth programming this past fiscal year, according to city staff. Funding went to events, community centers and community-based organizations, but the money mostly came from state and federal grants.
Unreliable or one-time grant funding makes it difficult for nonprofits to plan for the long-term, Monica Ruelas Mares with SacKidsFirst said. Young people need consistency to build relationships, and one-time funding can cause nonprofit staff turnover, she added.
“From the service end, it's really hard to build strong and consistent relationships with youth when you're being told that your program is only going to run for three months out of the year,” Ruelas Mares said.
The measure would also set an annual baseline for spending on services for youth under age 25. Starting in 2025, the city auditor would check if the city reduced youth spending below the baseline and increase plans for the next year as necessary.
How does it differ from past measures?
Advocates for Measure Y in 2016 and Measure G in 2020 proposed different funding sources for a children’s fund. Measure Y would have set aside a 5% tax on marijuana cultivators, while Measure G would have designated 2.5% off the general fund for youth services.
Council Member Jay Schenirer authored Measure Y and also pushed for Measure G. After voters shot down the latter in March 2020, Schenirer said he began planning the latest version with SacKidsFirst. Unlike two years ago, Mayor Darrell Steinberg supports the new proposal.
Schenirer added the city has also added policies and programs supporting youth in the past six years. He pointed to the Youth Development Plan the council approved in 2017, which set goals including prioritizing resources for youth with the greatest needs.
If passed, the 2022 measure would require the city to focus funding on youth most impacted by poverty, trauma and violence. With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating inequities, Schenirer added it’s the city’s chance to ensure young people’s success.
“We need to generate a new generation of leaders, and this is how we do it,” Schenirer said.
But Schenirer said the measure will not be a silver bullet. The possible $10 million yearly for youth services would be a small percentage of the city’s budget, which is $1.4 billion for the current fiscal year.
Council Member Jeff Harris argued the spending would limit the council’s flexibility and decision-making ability. He cast the sole vote against putting the measure on the ballot. Inflation and increasing pension costs were also among his concerns.
“If you think you can pass this and not have to cut something else, I feel that you’re not being realistic, and you’re not being physically realistic and you’re not being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Harris said.
The measure will require a simple majority vote to pass in November.
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