In November 2002 Portland voters approved the Children's Levy; six years later in Fall 2008, the city electorate overwhelmingly renewed the Levy for another five years. In May 2013, Portland again voted in favor of a five-year renewal, this time by a 74-percent margin. The new Levy will begin July 2014, with a new focus on alleviating childhood hunger.
The Levy is a city of Portland program that generates $10 million annually through a property tax of $0.4026 per $1,000 assessed valuation, or about $60 a year for a home with an assessed value of $150,000. After a competitive grant process in 2009, 84 programs were selected for three-year grants totaling $37 millilon.
In Spring 2012, the Levy was forced to make steep reductions of $3.5 million to grantees as the result of reduced revenues due to a depressed housing market and compression of city property taxes collections brought about by lower real market property values. Because of this, 12 investments were discontinued and reductions to existing grantees ranged from 4 percent to 50 percent.
Currently, 65 PCL-funded programs improve the lives of nearly 10,000 of Portland's neediest children age birth through 24 and their families each year as they:
- Provide early childhood education and intervention, parenting education and access to immunizations and health screenings so children enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
- Offer safe and constructive after-school and mentoring programs to promote academic achievement, provide role models and increase children's engagement in school.
- Provide child abuse prevention and intervention services to reach children affected by family violence, parental drug and alcohol use, and homelessness and to support families most at risk for abuse and neglect.
- Improve the lives of children in foster care.
An Allocation Committee governs the Portland Children's Levy. The Allocation Committee is comprised of Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who serves as the Chair; Multnomoah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury; Julie S. Young, a long-time youth advocate and community volunteer; Adrienne Livingston, execuitive director of the Black United Fund of Oregon; and Ron Beltz, a businessman who represents the Portland Business Alliance.
The Portland Children's Levy grew out of a need to support services that help at-risk children avoid negative outcomes such as:
- Poor health, poor academic performance and failure to complete high school.
- Juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and teen pregnancy.
- Violent crime, including child abuse and neglect.
At least 50 percent of the children currently participating in the Portland Children's Levy programs live in poverty or extreme poverty with a household income at or below the Federal Poverty Level of $20,000 for a family of four.
Programs applying for funding must have a track record of success, and demonstrate they are cost effective and achieve positive results for children. These services are designed to break the cycle of poverty many Portland families face by building community connections that lay a foundation for a stronger, safer, healthier Portland.
Research shows that children from low-income families, especially those with poorly educated parents and lack of adequate health care, are much more likely to experience negative outcomes such as dropping out of school or engaging in high-risk behavior with drugs and alcohol. These poor choices not only hurt children, but also impact the city in terms of producing higher rates of crime, homelessness and substance abuse as well as higher costs to society to deal with those issues.
Effective programs that address children's needs in early childhood, child abuse prevention and intervention, mentoring and quality after-school activities all help children live healthy lives. The Children's Investment Fund supports these programs in an effort to build a safe and caring community for Portland's children and families.
A Quick Glimpse of what we've been up to (2012-13):
- Annual investments made: $2.8 million in Early Childhood; $2.1 million in After School; $1 million in Mentoring, $1.7 million in Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention; and $1.2 million in Foster Care.
- Portland Children's Levy administrative costs have been kept under 5 percent.
- 95 cents of every dollar goes directly into proven children's programs throughout the city.
- Funded organizations must have a track record of success, demonstrate cost effectiveness and achieve positive results for children.
- Portland Children's Levy is annually audited.
- A $2.5 million Leverage Fund "Challenge Grant" process that requires grantees to match Levy resources with other funding sources has resulted in nine new public-private partnerships bringing more programs to Portland children.
- Nearly $500,000 in "Collabaration Grants," which are funder-initated projects in any of the Levy's five funding areas has resulted in six grants lasting from six months to three years.