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Strategic Public Financing Glossary of Terms

Key terms to help you understand strategic public financing

Strategic Public Financing Glossary of Terms

This glossary highlights terms we commonly use to explain strategic public financing, including the fields of cost modeling, fiscal mapping, and the process of pursuing a ballot measure to establish a dedicated source of funding to support services for children and youth.

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Accessible is a characteristic where programs or services are able to be easily reached, used, or obtained.

Able to be done or acted on; having clear steps to accomplish.

Ad Valorem Tax
A tax based on value. The most common example of an ad valorem tax is a property tax that calculates the amount owed in taxes based on an assessment of the property’s value.

Administering Infrastructure (for a Children’s Fund)
The entity that staffs and manages a local children’s fund. This entity allocates tax revenue to children and youth services, collects data, and reports on the spending and impact of the fund. The entity might exist within government (for example within a city’s Office of Children and Youth Services) or may be an outside organization that the local government contracts with to administer the funding. See also Oversight Body.

Annual Budget
The legislative process of crafting and adopting a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Thirty-one states craft annual budgets. See also Fiscal Year and Biennial Budget.

The amount of money budgeted or set aside for specific public goods and services through a legislative process for a specific fiscal year. The appropriation provides a look at what has been invested for the upcoming fiscal year.


The way citizens vote on local, state, and federal candidates and issues during an election. An issue that is subject to vote in an election often is described as being “on the ballot.”

Ballot Initiative
A process that allows citizens to propose the creation of a new law, local charter amendment, or state constitutional amendment. Depending on the jurisdiction, proposed legislation may be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters (also known as “qualifying for the ballot”) either by the vote of elected officials or by collection of petition signatures. “Ballot initiatives are also referred to as ballot measures, popular initiatives, voter initiatives, citizen initiatives, and propositions.” (Ballotpedia)

Biennial Budget
The legislative process of crafting and adopting a balanced budget for the upcoming two fiscal years. Nineteen states craft biennial budgets. See also Fiscal Year and Annual Budget.

Bond Proposition
A bond proposition is when voters are asked to allow a municipality to use bonds to fund certain projects. A government bond is a loan a governing body makes to an investor where the government agrees to pay back the loan with interest at a specified date. A state or local government often issues bonds to finance new construction projects or other one-time expenses. See also Ballot Initiative.

Budget Holder
Budget holders are people within government agencies/departments/offices who have access to data about the various sources that fund their agencies/departments. Budget holders can provide key information for a fiscal map, including how much money a locality has appropriated to its departments from different funding sources (also known as funding streams). See also Funding Stream.


To solicit votes or political support from potential voters through direct contact with individual voters like through door knocking. Canvassing is often a crucial piece of a campaign’s field plan. See also Field Plan.

Capital Budget
A capital budget outlines long-term investments and improvements, like infrastructure and facilities, that a locality can pay for over a longer period of time. Projects such as road repairs and maintenance of water treatment plants often are part of a locality’s capital budget.

Capital Gains Tax
A tax on the profit of an investment after it is sold. Capital gains taxes only apply to the amount an asset appreciated (or increased in value) while it was owned by the investor. The tax is levied after the investment is “realized” or sold off. Investments that can be taxed include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, jewelry, artwork, and real estate.

Capital Investments
Money that is spent on buildings and/or equipment that help effectively run a program or service.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a government-wide collection of federal programs, projects, services and activities that provide assistance or benefits. Programs listed in the catalog receive a five-digit number called a CFDA number, which is the system used to identify and sort the more than 2,000 federal programs. The CFDA provides a listing of federal programs available to state and local governments along with general information on the federal assistance program.

Children’s Cabinet
Children’s Cabinets are collaborative governance structures that seek to promote coordination across state agencies and improve the well-being of children and families. Children’s Cabinets are typically made up of the heads of all government agencies with child- and youth-serving programs. They meet regularly to coordinate services, develop a common set of outcomes, and collaboratively decide upon and implement plans to foster the well-being of young people.

Cost Estimation
A cost estimation is an approximate cost figure based on available data to define a momentary funding need to achieve a goal. Cost estimation is not meant to be exact, but rather a ballpark number to serve as a jumping-off point.

Cost Model
A cost model measures the true cost of equitably implementing, maintaining, or expanding a program or service for kids. It examines a program’s requirements, staffing needs, employee wages and benefits, facility rent and utilities, number of expected participants, and other factors that influence costs to estimate how much money a state or community must spend to run a program. Depending on its format, the model also can provide cost variations based on policy changes and quality characteristics. The cost model identifies the per child and total costs of providing a specific program or service, like child care or an after-school activity, and how changes in employee wages, program quality and structure, and/or geographic location impact those overall costs. See also Fiscal Map.

Cost Study
A cost study is a static point-in-time analysis of the cost of a program or service.

Providing health, social, and educational supports from birth through college and career.


A focus on underachievement or impairment; a shortfall or loss.

Dillon’s Rule
The principle that a local government can only exercise power that the state government has explicitly given it. Dillon’s rule provides local governments with limited authority to govern themselves and often places restrictions on the type, amount, and purpose of taxes that a local government may levy. See also Home Rule.


Earned Media
Earned media typically refers to media coverage of a campaign that the campaign does not finance. To generate earned media, a campaign should spend time developing relationships with reporters, issuing press releases, writing letters to the editor and editorials, and executing a social media strategy. See also Paid Media.

Enhanced Comprehensive Services
Among programs serving children and youth, enhanced comprehensive services are components that improve the quality of the program and provide additional services to the child, youth, or family. These components may include, but are not limited to, additional staffing, increased staff qualifications and compensation, reduced adult-child ratios, specialists and/or consultation services, family engagement, equipment and materials for specialized populations, additional program activities, etc.

Equitable Funding
The amount of funding necessary to support all children, youth, or families in receiving what they need.

Equitable Outcomes
An equitable outcome is one where every individual from every demographic has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Equitable Processes
An equitable process is inclusive, mindful of longstanding racial and cultural inequities, and shifts power to people who have too often been excluded from these processes.

Equity is fairness and justice by recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to correct imbalances.

Excise Tax
A tax on a specific good or service, usually applied at a per-unit rate. A sales tax on the other hand, applies to almost anything someone purchases and is levied as a percentage of the sales price. See also Sin Tax.

The amount of money paid out by a government during its fiscal year toward the supply of public goods and services. The expenditure looks at how much a locality spent for the previous fiscal year. See also Fiscal Year.

Explicit Bias
A conscious set of beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes held about a person or a group of people based on their race (racism), gender (sexism), income (classism), ability or dis/ability (ableism), religion, or another characteristic. Explicit bias can also be based on a combination of these identities (e.g., racism and sexism).


Field Plan
A campaign’s field plan is the comprehensive plan that covers the vote goals, tactics, and deadlines to win the election. A field plan should include how to place a question on the ballot, an estimate of the number of votes needed to win, a plan of how to target the right voters, and how to contact them. Most field plans involve get-out-the-vote and persuasion efforts (convincing detractors and undecided voters to support a particular position). Get-out-the-vote efforts usually happen closer to the election and involve mobilizing supporters to vote on Election Day.

Fiscal Map
A fiscal map documents and analyzes the various sources of funding that support programs and services for children and youth in a state, city, or county. The map can include public dollars from federal, state, and local sources and sometimes private dollars from foundations and other philanthropies if appropriate. It answers a fundamental question: WHO invests HOW MUCH money and in WHAT? See also Cost Model. Read more about fiscal maps here.

Fiscal Year
The 12-month period that companies and governments use for financial reporting and budgeting. It most commonly is used for accounting purposes to prepare financial statements. Not all fiscal years correspond with the calendar year or align with each other. For example, the federal government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 of one calendar year through September 30 of the next, while some state fiscal years, like Kentucky’s, begin July 1 and end the following June 30.

Funding Formula
This type of cost model is used to answer the question, “What would it cost to implement and sustain a new program or service across a specific geographic area, such as a city, state, or region, while taking into account the needs of the target population and ensuring equitable distribution of resources?”

Funding Stream
A distinct source of funding available. Funding stream also refers to money provided by a government or organization for an event or activity. In a fiscal map, a funding stream could be referred to as a federal grant or a budget line item. See also Fiscal Map.


General Fund
The source of funding used by a state government. This fund is used to record all funding revenue and appropriations not associated with special-purpose funds. The activities paid for through the general fund constitute the core administrative and operational tasks of the government entity. See also Special Fund.


Home Rule
When a state government grants municipalities and/or county governments authority to govern themselves rather than limiting local authority to what is expressly dictated by the state constitution or statutes. The level of autonomy granted varies by state and may be limited to only certain municipalities or counties or to certain areas of law. See also Dillon’s Rule.

Homestead Exemption
A homestead exemption reduces the amount of property taxes a person owes on a primary residence. The exemption can be designed as an overall reduction in the taxable value of the property or it could be a reduction on a sliding scale where a less valuable property receives a larger deduction. Nearly all states have homestead exemptions, although they vary widely by state. In some states, the exemption applies to all homeowners and in others eligibility only includes veterans, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes. Communities looking to increase their property taxes should understand how homestead exemptions could affect how much revenue they will raise. See also Millage Rate.


Implicit Bias
The largely unconscious and automatic prejudice that operates below conscious awareness and without intentional control. Implicit bias is absorbed from the messages surrounding us and results in acts of discrimination. Because implicit bias is below conscious awareness and often in conflict with what a person consciously believes, the person is unaware of the discrimination that results from it. (DiAngelo, 2016, p. 59).

Independent Special Taxing District
A unit of local government created for a limited, specific purpose (such as water or sewer management, business improvement, or mass transit) that has a separate governing body from the adjoining or overlapping traditional city or county. Legislation in each state dictates what special districts communities can create, what government services they may provide, and how they may raise revenue (generally through a property or sales tax).

Initiative Petition
A process to collect signatures from registered voters for the purpose of putting an initiative or referendum on the ballot for the upcoming election. It is also known as a signature petition. See also Ballot Initiative.

Integrated (funding systems)
An integrated funding system is a system that has combined different funding streams together in order to work as one entity to promote better public financial management.


Living Wage
A wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.


Market Rates
The usual price charged for a good or service in a free market, rather than one fixed by a state authority. A market rate survey is an examination of fees that child care providers typically charge and parents typically pay per unit of care (for example, per week or per hour) in the priced child care market.

Millage Rate (or Mill)
The rate used to calculate property tax. A mill represents the amount of taxes owed per every $1,000 of a property’s value. For instance, a 5 mill property tax means that an individual would owe $5 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value of that person’s property.

An abundance mindset is the belief that sufficient resources exist to accomplish your goals. By contrast, a scarcity mindset focuses on a lack of or limited resources. While a scarcity mindset emphasizes that resources are insufficient and must be guarded closely, an abundance mindset maintains that there are ample resources available in our nation if we prioritize investing those resources in our children and youth.

Mixed Delivery
A mixed delivery system allows parents to choose among different program types and select one that best meets their needs, and children can participate in a program that meets their development and learning style.


Occupancy Tax
An occupancy tax, also known as a hotel, lodging, or transient tax, is levied on customers when they rent accommodations. It can apply to hotels, inns, motels, campgrounds, and houses. Often occupancy taxes only apply when the stay is for less than 30 days.

Operating Budget
The expenses required to deliver services and programs to residents including employee salaries and operational supplies. Operating budgets need to be “balanced” each budget cycle, meaning the amount of money a locality expects to spend must equal the amount of revenue it expects to collect. Fiscal maps focus on operating budgets and, generally, do not include capital budget expenses. See also Fiscal Map and Capital Budget.

A law that is adopted by a municipal government. See also Resolution.

Oversight Body (for a Voter-Approved Children’s Fund)
An entity that ensures that a community implements a voter-approved children’s fund consistently with the law that established the fund. This body often reviews the budget and allocations proposed by the children’s fund’s administering infrastructure. See also Administering Infrastructure.


The variables used to determine the kind of data to collect for a fiscal map and the ways to analyze it. Typical parameters include amount of funding, level where funding originates (whether local, state, or federal), age range the funding supports, the outcomes the funding supports, and any flexibility provisions of the funding stream. See also Fiscal Map and Funding Stream.

Parcel Tax
A type of property tax that is not directly based on the value of the property. The tax can be applied to homes and/or commercial properties. Although some parcel taxes are based on the parcel’s size or improvements, most of them are flat taxes, which means that property owners of smaller properties pay the same amount as owners of large properties. See also Millage Rate.

Political Action Committee (PAC)
A political action committee (also known as a 527 organization) is a political organization with the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. Political action committees often solicit funding from the public, businesses, labor organizations, and member organizations. They often attempt to influence elections by buying mailers, billboards, and TV ads. Political action committees must typically register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) or state department of elections.

A type of law where a higher level of government overrules the authority of a lower level of government. For instance, state law can preempt local authority to levy certain types of taxes or taxes for certain purposes.

Program Leader
Program leaders are people who administer supports and services for children and youth. Program leaders can contribute to the fiscal mapping process by providing information and qualitative data about how they leverage funds to deliver services.

Progressive Tax
A tax whose rate increases as taxable value increases. This often refers to an income tax where lower incomes are taxed at a lower rate than higher incomes. A graduated income tax bracket, where individuals who earn more pay more in taxes, is an example of a common progressive tax. See also Regressive Tax.

Public Good
A program or service that is provided without profit to all members of a community, either by the government or an organization.


Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
Stands for “Quality Rating and Improvement System.” A quality ratings and standards system is an approach used to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school-age care and education programs. QRIS awards quality ratings to early and school-age care and education programs that meet a set of defined program standards. By participating in their state’s QRIS, early and school-age care providers embark on a path of continuous quality improvement. Even providers that have met the standards of the lowest QRIS levels have achieved a level of quality that is beyond the minimum requirements to operate.


Regressive Tax
A tax applied uniformly regardless of income. Since regressive taxes require everyone to pay taxes at the same rate, the tax takes a larger percentage of income or wealth from low-income earners than from high-income earners. Sales taxes are an example of a common regressive tax. See also Progressive Tax.

A statement or order by a municipal governing body that states a position or policy of the body. A resolution is typically less formal and less permanent than an ordinance. See also Ordinance.

Revenue Sources
A source or stream of funds received by an organization in exchange for providing services. Revenue sources can vary widely from program to program and may include funding from federal or state grants, local taxes, parent fees, philanthropic contributions, or a combination of these sources.


Sales Tax
Sales tax is a tax on the sale, transfer, or exchange of a good or service. Sale taxes are imposed at the point of sale and collected by a retailer and sent to the government. See also Use Tax.

The “snapshot” of the funding landscape a fiscal map captures with its data. The scope is defined by the goals of the fiscal map. It can be broad (ex. analyze funding for children and youth from the prenatal stage to age 24 for the purposes of documenting how much a community invests in children and youth) or narrow (ex. analyze funding for early childhood education for the purposes of further strategic public finance planning). See also Fiscal Map.

Sin Tax
A tax on specific goods or services that are considered undesirable or harmful such as alcohol or tobacco. In addition to raising revenue, sin taxes may seek to deter people from consuming the good or engaging in the activity being taxed. It may be more appropriate to use the term “excise” taxes, which refer more generally to taxes that target a specific good or service. See also Excise Tax.

Special Fund
Fees and other revenue receipts earmarked to finance a governmental agency or specific purpose.

Strategic Public Financing
A process that allows states and communities to assign a cost to their goals and policy priorities for children and youth and, ultimately, to identify ways to cover those costs.

Subsidy Rates
Child care subsidy programs provide financial assistance to eligible parents to cover the costs of child care. Subsidy rates are payments made by the state to child care providers for providing care to eligible children. Subsidy rates vary based on type of care, age of child, and geographic region.


True Cost
The cost of operating a high-quality program with the staff and materials needed to meet quality standards and provide a developmentally appropriate learning environment for all children and youth. Cost of quality is another term often used to refer to the true cost of care.


Use Tax
A tax imposed on goods that are bought in a state or locality with no sales taxes but where the goods are used or distributed in a place where there is a sales tax. For instance, if you buy a product online and do not pay sales tax but you plan to use the product in a state with a use tax, then you would owe a use tax to the state. Use taxes are meant to ensure that local sellers are not put at a disadvantage by having to compete with out-of-state sellers that do not charge sales tax. Use taxes are generally the same rate as the state or local sales tax rate. See also Sales Tax.


Voter-Approved Children’s Fund
A portion of public revenue that is dedicated to children’s services via a ballot measure. Voters at the state or local levels can elect to raise taxes or set aside existing revenue specifically for children’s services, such as early childhood care and education, after-school and summer programs, or youth mental health. Dedicating revenue via a ballot measure protects these funds from being reassigned to another use. Read more about voter-approved children’s funds here.

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