By Don Saylor and Donita Stromgren
A couple of significant events are in the works for First 5 Yolo.
First, we are preparing for our next comprehensive strategic planning process, which will result in new funding priorities in 2015.
Second, the annual funds available for investing in Yolo County children from birth through age 5 will be reduced from $4 million to approximately $1.5 million, as part of the commission’s plan to spend down its $6.5 million reserves. This means, going forward, we will enthusiastically seek new community supporters to work collaboratively with the commission and our funded partners so we can leverage First 5 dollars for the maximum benefit of our youngest children.
First 5 Yolo has a 15-year history of making significant investments that positively impact the lives of thousands of children and families in Yolo County.
During the early years — 1998 to 2000 — the commission focused on creating policies for distributing funds to local agencies that provided direct services to young children and their families. Priority areas addressing community needs were identified and funding distribution guidelines were developed.
Funding officially began to flow from First 5 Yolo into the community in 2000-01. During the next three years, approximately $2.5 million per year was awarded to First 5 Yolo from the Proposition 10 tobacco tax and about 85 percent of our annual operating budget was distributed to local agencies.
Out of these revenues, by the end of the fiscal year 2002-03, nearly $5 million was given out to local programs and services. During the next four years, commissioners continued to purposefully build up the reserves to ensure future stability of funding for programs that provided measurable results benefiting children from birth through age 5.
Six years ago, it became apparent that thousands of Yolo County children and families were being seriously impacted by the beginnings of the Great Recession. During our strategic planning process for years 2008-15, First 5 Yolo commissioners decided to increase funding for programs addressing the most serious needs of young children in our communities by spending down our reserves over a seven-year period.
The Integrated Family Services Initiative model deliberately created major programs and services that would have the stability to make an impact. Many of these programs were able to leverage the First 5 Yolo funds to bring in more collaboration and collective funding and multiply the number of children and families who benefited from the new services.
As a result, during the seven-year period from 2008 to 2015, First 5 Yolo has been and is investing between $3 million and $4 million a year into programs and services for Yolo County children. This money has come from First 5 Yolo reserves, First 5 California’s support for preschool in West Sacramento and approximately $2 million a year from the Proposition 10 tobacco tax.
Even while they were strategically spending down the reserve, commissioners knew that the additional infusion of money would be temporary and that, as tobacco use declines, tax dollars for First 5 Yolo also would decline. This will result in a significant reduction in what First 5 Yolo is able to contribute to local programs.
However, we believe by creating more synergies among the community funders who are already investing millions of dollars in our communities, we can ensure that essential programs for children and families will continue.
Looking at the full span of First 5 Yolo’s 15 years, more than $26.5 million has been invested into the well-being and early development of Yolo County’s youngest children. Through partnerships and collaborations with other local organizations, First 5 Yolo investments have enabled tens of thousands of families and children to receive needed medical and dental care, fresh food, preschool opportunities, library reading programs, parenting classes, home visits and other valuable services.
First 5 Yolo is now embarking on a new strategic planning process. We sincerely hope the future includes the formation of new community partnerships and collaborations that keep children at the forefront of policy and budgeting decisions. We invite local child advocates to not only keep informed about the funded programs through First 5 Yolo, but to also get involved in the Yolo Children’s Movement — a partnership between First 5 Yolo and the Yolo County Children’s Alliance.
For more information about First 5 Yolo, our funded programs and services, or to read our recent 2012-13 Report to the Community, go to www.first5yolo.org.
— Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor of Davis is chairman of First 5 Yolo and Donita Stromgren is vice-chair.