Lincoln County Commissioners were asked this week to put a 35-cent per thousand property tax increase on the November ballot to ask the voters to help maintain vital services to local children and families struggling to take care of them. The average tax increase for a $200,000 home would be about $70 a year or around $5.80 per month.
In return, The Children’s Trust of Lincoln County, in cooperation with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, would administer the program that would address these Lincoln County issues:
* Over 26% of Lincoln County children live in poverty
* Two-thirds of all school children qualify for free or reduced school lunches
* 36% of students don’t graduate high school on time
* 43% of students from poor families don’t graduate high school on time.
* Child abuse and neglect is 36% worse than in any other county in the Oregon.
* Over 10% of school-age children are homeless.
* Juvenile arrest rates are 22% worse than the state average.
* Quality child care is expensive, with only one slot available for every four needed.
If the tax override is approved by the voters, the Children’s Trust says they will set up an advisory board with broad county representation, and under the watchful eye of a county commissioner pursue a plan to meet the aforementioned challenges facing Lincoln County children. Special emphasis will be given to early childhood education and child care, outside-of-school child development, and child abuse prevention and intervention. The Trust says they will not have “quotas” for funding specific areas of the county but that they will make every effort to ensure that children in all areas of the county will be well served.
The Trust contends that accountability and transparency will be an important element in all their programs. All programs funded by he trust must provide regular progress reports and an accounting of how all Trust Fundswere spent. A county-wide representative Allocation Committee will meet on a regular basis and will be open to the public.
The Trust maintains that their two million dollar a year fund will save county taxpayers in the long run by reducing the cost of education for county children, lower crime committed by county children, fewer instances of expensive long term prison incarceration, lower costs for welfare and more taxes paid by productive adults who earlier, as children, participated in quality early childhood and outside-of-school programs.
Lincoln County Commissioners said the voters should have an opportunity to weigh in on these issues since funding for such intervention programs has dropped substantially since the onset of the current recession.
The commissioners are expected to formally place the measure on the November ballot at their next commission meeting on July 11th.