South KC Perspective
By John Sharp
The need to extend and increase the current one-eighth cent sales tax that funds services to promote the mental health and emotional well-being of children and youth 19 and younger in Jackson County was explained at a June 29 meeting at the South Patrol Police Campus.
Persons affiliated with south Kansas City and Grandview area social service agencies and school districts that receive funding from the tax and other supporters filled the community room at the campus to show their support for extending and increasing the tax.
The tax which funds the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County was approved by county voters by roughly 59% of the vote in 2016, went into effect in 2017 and is set to expire in March of 2024.
Supporters hope the Jackson County legislature will vote to remove the expiration date of the tax and increase its amount to one-fourth of a cent and submit the measure to county voters for approval in the November 8 general election.
Rob Whitten, executive director of the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County that is funded by the tax, said if the tax is increased to one-fourth cent the Children’s Services Fund will collect a penny for every $4 spent on taxed purchases instead of a penny on every $8 spent.
That small amount adds up, however, since the Children’s Services Fund collected a little over $14 million in 2021 based on initial financial statements.
Services funded include crisis intervention, home & community based intervention, individual group & family counseling, outpatient psychiatric treatment, prevention, services to teen parents, temporary shelter and transitional living.
Whitten said about one-third of the Children’s Services Fund revenue now goes to fund preventive services.
Last year’s annual report by the Children’s Services Fund noted that nearly 50,000 county children and youth had been assisted by funded services that year, and Whitten said this year about 63,000 children and youth are being assisted by funded services.
Area social service agencies and school districts that receive funding through the tax include the Center School District, Community Assistance Council, First Call and the Grandview Assistance Program.
Rick Chambers, director of communications & development for the Center School District, said before receiving funding from the Children’s Services Fund the district only had two social workers covering four schools with a caseload of over 600 students each.
As a result, he said the vast majority of their time was spent on crisis response, with very little time available for preventive work with students.
“Now that we have a full-time social worker in each building they are able to provide much more preventive support, including one-on-one relationship building, small group sessions with students and home visits,” he said.