After failing to deliver enough verified petition signatures to election officials, St. Paul activists want the City Council to approve a ballot measure asking voters to raise property taxes to pay for preschool for thousands of low-income families.
The St. Paul All Ready for Kindergarten (SPARK) coalition announced in a press release Thursday that their petition drive fell short by more than 3,000 signatures.
Their proposal aims to completely cover the cost of early childhood learning programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in the city who live at or below 185% of the federal poverty line, or $51,388 annually for a family of four.
The measure would raise property taxes in St. Paul by $2.6 million each year for a decade. By its 10th year, the program would collect $26 million annually, costing the average homeowner about $200.
To place a measure on the ballot through a petition, under state law the group needed signatures from a number of voters equal to 20% of those who voted in the last municipal election — which in this case amounts to 11,821.
Though SPARK submitted nearly 20,000 signatures, the Ramsey County elections office could only certify 8,541, according to the release.
"After more than 20,000 conversations with the people of St. Paul over the last few months, we believe their voice is clear," Mara Novillo, SPARK's field director, said in a statement. "We should let the voters decide in November if they want their city to make this incredible investment in early education."
State law also allows the City Council to order the question be posed to voters during the next election.
City Council Member Rebecca Noecker is chairing the SPARK campaign and has previously floated the idea of bringing the ballot measure before her peers. Council Members Dai Thao, Nelsie Yang and Jane Prince are listed as supporters of the campaign on SPARK's website.