Promoting Local Revenue StreamsJanuary, 2014

Funding the Next Generation is taking another important step forward - helping counties and cities launch Children's Budgets as the first phase in developing local dedicated funding streams.   
Wendy Rowan, First 5 Humboldt and Patty Vernelson, First 5 Del Norte, discuss a Children's Budget strategy with Del Norte Supervisor Dave Finigan, former President of the California State Association of Counties and champion for children locally and statewide.
A Children's Budget is an accounting of a city or county's fiscal investments in services for children, youth and families. It is a good place to start working to create a local public funding stream for children, youth and families for two reasons:

1. It's very difficult to advocate for additional funding without knowing how much money is already available.

2. A Children's Budget is an objective, neutral way to assess the need for resources - it offers data for informed decision-making and eases everyone into the discussion about money before talking about controversial issues like taxes.

Funding the Next Generation convened representatives from 7 counties on January 21 in Napa for a first-ever workshop on how to create local Children's Budgets.  Presenters at the convening were:
  • Margaret Brodkin, Director and Founder, Funding the Next Generation
  • Ed Harrington, Former Controller of San Francisco, and former President and long-time Board member of the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada
  • Jill Wynns, Chair, Cities, Counties, and Schools Partnership; and Board of Directors of the California School Boards Association
  • Kim Thomas, former Executive Director, Solano County Children's Network
All attendees said they were returning to their communities armed with sufficient information and motivation to explore a Children's Budget process.
Attending the Napa meeting on behalf of the Institute for Local Government, Randi Kay Stephens discusses the upcoming meeting of the Cities, Counties, and Schools Partntership on local dedicated funding streams and Children's Budgets, with Margaret Brodkin, Funding the Next Generation.
A Children's Budget can be an important tool for local governments and for advocates.  It can provide objective information and be a catalyst for the following:

  • Aligning spending priorities and improving the coordination of services.
  • Identifying service gaps.
  • Maximizing funding opportunities.
  • Evaluating the balance of expenditures.
  • Maintaining a funding baseline for children's services.

    Always remember: You are creating a catalyst for change in order to improve the lives of children, youth and families.

    1. First decide on the purpose of your Children's Budget.  Stay focused on that purpose - it's easy to get lost in just numbers. This is a policy process - not primarily an accounting one.


    2. There is no one right way to calculate and frame your city/county investments - make whatever "rules," definitions, and decisions that achieve your goals.  

    Alan Kerzin, Executive Director, Salano Children's Network, discusses how to re-establish a Children's Budget in his county with Fiscal Management Analyst, Ron Grassi in the Solano County Administrators Office.


    3. Balance between collecting  too much information (that no one will read) and not enough to allow meaningful and credible conclusions.  


    4. Start with the idea that your first Children's Budget process will take between 6 months to a year; and that the process can be as important as your final document.


    5. A partnership between government and community in creating a Children's Budget is optimal. Create an advisory body representing public agency directors, fiscal personnel, advocates, policy-makers and community-based service providers to oversee the Children's Budget project.


    6. Include analysis, conclusions and recommendations in your final document - not just numbers.  Otherwise - what's the point?


    A good way to get the process going is with a resolution from a county Board of Supervisors or a City Council, establishing the purpose of the Children's Budget, appointing an advisory committee, and designating who will lead the project.
    Gloria Flaherty and Joan Reynolds, children and family service providers and community leaders in Lake County, review information on Children's Budgets as they consider ways to introduce a Children's Budget in their county, which has the highest rate of child poverty in the state.
    If you are interested in learning more about Children's Budgets and helping your city or county explore the potential of a Children's Budget, please contact me.

    Margaret Brodkin
    Founder and Director 
    Logo Funding the Next Generation      
    phone: 415-794-4963 

    Ed Harrington, former Controller of San Francisco, joined Funding the Next Generation's team to help communities understand Children's Budgets.  Harrington is a nationally regarded expert in public financing and we are pleased that he is lending his expertise to our initiative.  Pictured above, Ed is discussing Children's Budget issues w. Tanya Moore, Youth Services, Berkeley, California
    Harrington urged the group assembled in Napa to institutionalize the data collection for a Children's Budget into the regular budget process of the city or county.  That will ensure consistent information from year to year.  He noted that the first year is the hardest, but once the system is set in place, it becomes much easier.  He pointed out that in San Francisco the Children's Budget
    focuses on discretionary local spending on children, youth and families - giving the City a Baseline Children's Budget, which by local legislation must remain a consistent percentage of the overall budget from year-to-year.  Over the years, this has prevented cuts in children's services.  Harrington was at the helm as all the strategies and decisions were made regarding the Children's Budget.
    Where are children's services in local budgets?
    County-level departments or agencies include:
  • Health departments
  • Human services
  • First 5
  • Criminal justice - sheriff, juvenile detention, probation, courts, child support
  • Housing
  • City-level departments or agencies include:

  • Recreation and parks
  • Libraries and cultural institutions
  • Law enforcement and criminal justice
  • Mayor's office
  • Community and economic development 

    It depends on what you want to know.  
     Possibilities include:
  • Expenditures by Agency - the most obvious place to start, but your analysis must go beyond this to be useful.
  • Expenditures by Function - e.g. income support, child protection, early care and education, health, social services, youth development.  This can help with service coordination.
  • "Front-end" of the system vs. "back-end" - most often a dramatic and useful comparison, documenting the need for more funding for prevention.
  • Year-to-year comparisons - can demonstrate funding losses when they occur, such as the multi-year losses in state funding for child care.
  • Children's services as a portion of the overall budget.  It's often small and helps show that children are not getting their fair share.
  • Discretionary funding vs. non-discretionary funding - a way to illustrate the need for a local funding stream over which community has control.  
  • Kim Thomas, creator of the Solano County Children's Budget discusses possibilities with Sally Sheehan-Brown, First 5 Napa, and host of the 7 county Children's Budgetmeeting. 
    Project Sponsor

    First 5 Association of CA

    Collaborating Partners

    - California Child Care Resource and Referral Network
    -California School-Age Consortium

     - Children Now
    - Children's Defense Fund California
     - Prevent Child Abuse California 
     - California Network of Family Strengthening Networks 
    - California Coverage and Health Initiatives
    - Kidango
    - The Children's Partnership
    - Youth Leadership Institute

    Pro-Bono Legal Team
    Orrick Public Finance Group