An Exploration of County Expenditures and Revenues for Children's Services

Paul D. Goren
Northwestern University
Michael W. Kirst
Stanford University

The changing conditions of children in California will necessitate significant increases in public expenditures. For example, the annual enrollment growth in schools alone will increase education expenditures by about 3 percent. Many of these additional children will require special services due to recent immigration, working parents, poverty, or family disorganization. Great strain will be placed on county and school district resources in order to keep pace with growth and tailor programs to the particular circumstances of various localities.

The current system for financing children's services in California provides cities greater fiscal flexibility and revenue-raising potential than counties and school districts. But counties and school districts are the major providers of children's services and provide a broad array of children's services, while cities have very limited responsibilities (mostly recreation and law enforcement).

This paper's objective is to provide information on county children's services and trends in county budgets. This will serve as a basis for further PACE research on the adequacy of county financing for children's services. In order to fully understand public financing for California's children, one would need to compile comprehensive data from federal, state, and local sources. Unfortunately, data on federal and state funds to support children in California are not compiled anywhere. Some federal program analyses are available, but they also encompass funding for adults through such programs as Medicaid. The state government does not provide any overall children's budget.

No data are available concerning total expenditures for children in all California counties. A major study was needed to compile and analyze children's programs and budgets in just one county. Los Angeles County contains 27 percent of California's children, and six out of ten children there are nonwhite. Obviously, it is not representative of the state as a whole. The next section illustrates overall county responsibility for children through the example of revenue and expenditure patterns within one specific county. Many counties are experiencing difficulty obtaining revenues for children. Most county funds come from federal and state sources, and services are mandated by these higher levels of government. The Los Angeles County example, however, demonstrates the crucial importance of locally raised revenue in providing children's services designed to meet local circumstances.

Suggested citationGoren, P. D., & Kirst, M. W. (1989, February). An Exploration of County Expenditures and Revenues for Children's Services [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.