Miami-Dade, FL

Property Tax Referendum

In 2002 and again in 2008, voters in Miami-Dade County approved a referendum for a modest increase in property taxes to pay for the operation of a Children’s Services Council (CSC), a local government entity charged with awarding funds for programs and services to improve the lives of children and families. The property tax was increased by $.50 in for every $1,000 of assessed property value. For 2014-2015, this increase amounted to $37 per year more in property taxes on a median priced home valued at $73,157. About $100 million is raised annually through the increase and is dedicated to the operation of the Children’s Trust in Miami-Dade County.

Children Under Age 5


Children Under Age 5 Living in Poverty


Children Under Age 5 Living with a Single Mother


Families with Income Below $50,000


Failed Attempt in 1988

Lessons learned included creating a broad-based initiative rather than limiting services to low income children. For 2002 and 2008, advocates raised money to operate a well- financed campaign, which was guided at every step by frequent polling.

The Economy

Despite a poor economy in 2008, the same strategy of raising money for the campaign and utilizing pollsters and professional staffng prevailed.

Getting to Action

Although Florida law allows local communities to approve a referendum to establish Children’s Services Councils, obtaining approval from voters to increase property taxes to pay for the councils was challenging. Miami-Dade failed to win approval for the initiative in 1988. At that time, the funds would assist only children from low-income families.

When supporters tried again in 2002, they applied lessons learned from the earlier attempt. They broadened the purpose to serve all children in the county, orchestrated a well-organized and strategic campaign team supported by a fundraising effort and included a sunset provision, which meant that voters would have a chance to reauthorize the funding in 2008. It passed.

In 2008, there was concern that voters might reject reauthorizing the Children’s Trust as part of an anti-tax sentiment as a result of the recession. A broad-based coalition including business leaders, religious leaders, and leaders within each of the ethnic communities was critical in diffusing opposition and building support among voters. To keep the operation of the Children’s Trust separate from the campaign, the Children’s Trust Political Committee was created. The initiative passed again and is up for reauthorization in 2020.


Sept 2002Miami-Dade voters approved the Children’s Trust and the property tax increase to fund children’s services.
Sept 2006Planning began for the reauthorization of the Children’s Trust scheduled for 2008.
March 2007Campaign manager hired.
Sept 2008Voter referendum wins 85.4 percent vs 14.5 percent (during a recession).
FundraisingAbout $743,000 was raised for the 2002 campaign. About $1.6 million was raised for the 2008 campaign.


The Children’s Trust spends about $100 million per year on a wide range of initiatives to improve the lives of children, including child care and early learning programs.

$100 million per year

Keys to Success

An organized and well funded campaign

Intentional effort to create champions for the initiative

A broad-based advocacy effort/coalition campaigned in support of the referendum

Initiative was time-limited (not in perpetuity) – approved in 2002, reauthorized in 2008, next reauthorization is 2020

The measure was paid for and revenue source was broad-based (all property owners)

Polling helped guide targeting, activities and message