County will try to figure how to spend Proposition 10 funds |

County will try to figure how to spend Proposition 10 funds

Rick Chandler

Unless you’re an ardent cigarette smoker, you probably haven’t thought much recently about Proposition 10. That’s the state initiative that passed by a slim margin this past November, in which early childhood development programs would be funded by state excise taxes on cigarettes.

Now a portion of that new funding has come home to roost in El Dorado County.

“Our county is going to get between $1 million and $1.2 million per year (through Proposition 10 funding),” said El Dorado County Public Health Department director Gayle Erbe-Hamlin. “It’s called the Children and Families First Initiative,” she said. “This program will serve to provide early childhood development services for children, from the prenatal stage to age 5. It’s the initiative that actor Rob Reiner spearheaded, which established a 50-cents-per-pack tax on tobacco products.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to focus on an area of childhood not usually addressed by other programs.”

And so, the El Dorado County Children and Families First Commission is now a reality. The local commission is now in the process of being staffed, with the largest piece of the puzzle yet to fall into place. The commission is now seeking a contractor to, in effect, run the commission.

“An independent commission was established by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors earlier this year to set up the local Children and Families First Commission,” Erbe-Hamiln said. “We’re now seeking a contractor who will have primary responsibility to develop a strategic plan, which consists of goals and objectives to be obtained by the commission.”

The Department of Public Health is currently accepting proposal applications for the position. Applicants must submit a letter of intent to the commission by Aug. 3. A bidder’s conference will also be held Aug. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Emergency Medical Services conference room at the county government center in Placerville, where potential bidders will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Final applications are due no later than Aug. 23. A decision will be made in September.

Ironically, Proposition 10 did not pass in El Dorado County, where many were uncomfortable with a tax which placed the burden on only 25 percent of the population (those who smoke).

“One of the other fears (from Proposition 10 opponents) was that it would establish this large state bureaucracy into which the money would disappear,” Erbe-Hamlin said. “But by creating these commissions at the community level, the state has proven that there won’t be a large infrastructure involved. We’re looking for public input in hiring a contractor. They’re trying to do it differently.”

Proposition 10 will provide about $360 million in total revenue this year, and an estimated $690 million next year. It allocates 80 percent of those funds directly to counties – which have broad discretion on how to spend those funds, as long as the expenditures are consistent with the purposes of the initiative.

Proposition 10 increased the excise tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack beginning Jan. 1, 1999, bringing the total state excise tax to 87 cents per pack. Also increased were excise taxes on other types of tobacco products, such as cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco and snuff.

For more information on the request for proposal, contact the El Dorado County Public Health Department at (530) 621-6191.

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