St. Paul City Council Set to Review Ballot Question for Funding Low-Income Day Care, Pre-K on July 27

The St. Paul City Council will discuss a potential special election issue that would be included on the ballot for the election on November 8 and ask voters whether to establish a dedicated fund to support pre-kindergarten and home day care programs for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds.

A council discussion on early learning subsidies was postponed until July 27 at the request of council member Rebecca Noecker on Wednesday. In an effort to secure the five “yes” votes necessary to place a new tax assessment on the ballot, supporters of “St. Paul All Ready for Kindergarten,” or SPARK, have spoken with each city council member separately.

The following is the question as it is written in the municipal council agenda:

EARLY LEARNING SUBSIDIES: SHOULD THE CITY LEVEY TAXES FOR THEM?

Should the city of St. Paul be permitted to levy $2.6 million in property taxes every year for a period of 10 years in order to create a dedicated fund for children’s early care and education that provides subsidies to families so that early care and education is free to low-income families and available on a sliding scale to other families?

According to state law, the municipal clerk must give written notice of a ballot issue to the county auditor at least 74 days before to the election, which in this case would be on August 26.

Nelsie Yang, a council member, is now on maternity leave, and Dai Thao, a council member who was absent on Wednesday, will be resigning on August 1. This complicates the schedule.

By year four or five, up to 5,000 low-income children would be fully enrolled in early learning programs thanks to funding offered by a central organization, according to SPARK organizers, if the question is accepted and goes on the November ballot.

Peter Hendricks, a lawyer in St. Paul, sent the city council one email on Wednesday encouraging them to vote “no,” noting that phrases like “early care and education” and “low-income” are not defined in the ballot text while being used as examples in the media.

Hendricks stated that there are “too many unsolved questions.” Because of these and other unknown uncertainties, “putting this levy item on the ballot might generate complications, like the rent control law, if it succeeds.”

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