SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) Voters in the City of Santa Cruz only have one thing to decide on Tuesday's election — whether or not to increase the portion of the city's cannabis business tax that funds services for early childhood education and childcare. Also known as Measure A.
Measure A aims to allocate 20% of revenue from the cannabis tax to youth and early childhood development services and programs.
"This measure is for more than early childhood education," said Kris Munro, Superintendent of Santa Cruz City Schools. "It also provides really important support for student access to Parks and Recreation, after-school and summer programming. It has allowed us to work with our low-income families to get them registered for free programming."
In 2017, the Santa Cruz City Council created the Santa Cruz Children's Fund, allocating 12.5% of the annual cannabis tax revenue. $176,272 was generated during the 2020 fiscal year. You can read more about how that money has been spent here.
An impartial analysis of the measure, recorded in the official voter guide by City Attorney Tony Condotti, estimates that amount would increase to $340,000.
Measure A would also make the fund more permanent.
"A future council would not be able to rescind that contribution to the children's fund if we wanted to change this contribution. It would have to go back to the voters," said David Brody, Executive Director of First Five Santa Cruz County. "And importantly, the measure would increase that percentage of total cannabis business tax from 12.5%, where it stands today, to 20%."
There have been no official arguments filed against Measure A, however, some have problems with how much this election will cost the city with only one question on the ballot.
"When I was on the City Council, I supported this initiative. I believe it was a unanimous vote, and I am totally in favor of that," said former city councilmember Chris Krohn. "From what I understand, the city council could already approve [the 20%] for this year and would. Instead, somebody put it in an article, $147,000 to $178,000 it's costing this election. Why are we spending that money, we could put it on the June ballot or on the November 2022 ballot?"
But advocates argue that the pandemic has accelerated the need for these funds.
"We know that families, young families, in particular, were under stress before COVID, and they're under considerably more stress now," said Brody. "They're under stress finding affordable childcare. Our childcare providers are under stress, being able to provide childcare and paying living wages to their workers. Our families' children are under tremendous stress. And you know what it takes to support those kids? Frankly, it takes resources."
The measure would also create a community oversight committee, consulting with education and child development partners on how to best spend these funds.
These county leaders are all listed as being in favor of Measure A:
Ryan Coonerty, Third District Supervisor, Santa Cruz County
Valerie Leveroni Corral, CEO, WAMM Phytotherapies
Kris Munro, Superintendent, Santa Cruz City Schools
Martine Watkins, City Councilmember, City of Santa Cruz
David Brody, Executive Director, First Five Santa Cruz County