Fluoride Action Network

Social services for children facing major funding battle

Source: San Jose Mercury News | Times-Herald
Posted on February 22nd, 2011

Note from FLUORIDE Action Network: Funding for FLUORIDATION in California comes mainly from the First 5 Commission which uses the state’s tobacco tax dollars.__________________________________________________________

First 5 social services for young children could lose a large chunk of funding even before a possible ballot measure goes before voters under a proposal before the Legislature.

Created in 1998 as part of Proposition 10’s 50-cent tax increase on cigarettes, First 5 provides young children with education, health services and insurance, preschool, child abuse prevention and mental health programs.

The First 5 Solano Children and Families and Commission served 20,000 young children last year.

First 5 staff members have been bracing for budget cuts which voters would consider in a June special election — a cornerstone of Gov. Jerry Brown’s draft state budget.

It’s uncertain, however, whether Brown will be able to get the Legislature to agree to place the tax measure before voters.

First 5 Association of California Executive Director Sherry Novick said a new proposal lawmakers are considering calls for removing $1 billion from commission fund balances before any election.

The Senate and Assembly Budget Committees have already approved this move, Novick said.

Such an action would hamper the ability of agencies, including the Solano County First 5 Commission, to stay afloat by stripping away their reserves, officials said.

The “reserves” are more than savings, Novick said. Agencies have saved up money not only to weather lean fiscal times, but also to plan ahead and pay for multi-year programs, she said.

Solano First 5 executive director Christina Arrostuto said the move would strip the local agency of $8.9 million, wiping out the reserves to keep the agency fully funded.

The commission must dip into reserves each year to augment funding from cigarette taxes, Arrostuto said.

Children’s Network of Solano County executive director Kim Thomas said the move would serve as “huge penalties for counties that used their money wisely.”

If the funding cut goes through, money would be lost for children’s health insurance and direct health care services, dental health and fluoridation in poor counties. Also cut would be funds for the Black Infant Health program, screening and early prevention for children with development needs, and safety net programs aimed at decreasing child abuse and domestic violence, Novick said.