First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners convened in person on May 9, 2024. Vice Chair Summer McBride presided over the meeting, which included votes on the Revised Records Management Policy and Records Retention Schedule and an amendment to an existing strategic partnership. Staff also shared updates on First 5 LA’s Draft Proposed Fiscal Year 2023-24 Budget and updated Long-Term Fiscal Plan (LTFP), as well as the agency’s continued commitment to engaging communities.

In her opening remarks, Executive Director Karla Pleitéz Howell informed the Board that, in addition to a presentation on the agency’s proposed draft budget for FY 2024-25, the meeting would feature a discussion on First 5 LA’s evolving approach toward community engagement, which is a crucial element of the new strategic plan.

“Partnerships lie at the heart of all our strategies,” Pleitéz Howell stated. “We want to make sure that, as we’re building out the next iteration of community engagement, central to that work will be a constant process of checking back in with communities and bringing issues back here to the Board — a continuous process with the community and a continuous process of evaluation.”

Pleitéz Howell also noted that the discussion on community engagement was not a reflection of the exceptional work taking place with First 5 LA’s dedicated community partners, but rather a result of the agency’s shifting fiscal reality.

“We want to make it really clear: the evolution is necessary because of our investments,” she emphasized to the Board. “Our goal today is to seek your insights on the direction for partnerships and community engagement: What learning do you think is important as we think about the next phase of our community engagement work?”

Following Pleitéz Howell’s remarks, First 5 LA Director of Finance Raoul Ortega, Financial Planning & Analysis Manager Daisy Lopez and Executive Vice President of Family Systems & Human Resources John Wagner provided an update on the proposed Fiscal Year 2024-25 Budget and the updated Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP).

In his overview, Ortega explained to the Board that while the draft budget aligns with the previous FY 2020-28 Strategic Plan, it also included resources to support ongoing work with tactic developments as the agency pivots to the new strategic plan by FY 2025-26. He also emphasized the urgency in prioritizing First 5 LA’s approach to LTFP modeling so that it aligns with both the agency’s fiscal reality and new strategic plan.

Lopez spoke next, providing more detail about the proposed budget, which features a budget of approximately $92.9 million, down roughly $8.3 million (8.2%) compared to the previous fiscal year’s revised budget. Approximately $11.4 million will be offset by non-Proposition 10 revenues, with First 5 LA resources making up the rest at $81.4 million.

While program costs will still generally align with the framework of the previous strategic plan, Lopez explained that the agency’s operating budget costs will align with the new organizational structure in support of the new strategic plan. She also noted that resources included in this year’s proposed budget continue to advance the goal toward long-term sustainability. To read more about the proposed budget, see slides 4 to 7 of the presentation here.

Wagner and Lopez next shared some highlights on programming costs. The work done under the Center for Child & Family Impact, which makes up 82% of First 5 LA programming, will continue, although at a reduced level. Wagner provided brief snapshots of the proposed adjustments for the Center’s five departments. Lopez offered an overview of the programming performed through First 5 LA’s Offices, as well as highlights of the proposed changes to First 5 LA’s operating budget.

In response to a question regarding the need to cut program costs when new non-Proposition 10 revenue was being secured, Lopez said it was important for the agency to address the difference between agency revenues and expenditures, especially in light of Proposition 31’s effect on First 5 funding.

“We need to have conversations across the organization and with our grantees to let them know and bring them along with what the reality is for the organization,” Lopez stated. “And the reality over the past several years has been that our expenditures continue to outpace our revenue… We need to reassess and realign to a degree that we can manage when all external funding is unknown.”

For more information, see slides 4 to 12 here.

Regarding the Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP), Lopez stated that the spending limits for FY 2025-26 through 2027-28 align with a downward trajectory of approximately 6.47% in annual spending per year. Revisions to the LTFP’s annual expenditures and revenues will be shared with the Board for discussion, feedback, and approval in FY 2024-25.

During the subsequent discussion, Commissioner Marquez said that it would be helpful to hear about the impact of the programs and the feasibility of identifying alternate funding sources.

“What’s missing for me is the impact,” added Marquez, “the story behind these numbers that will provide us with additional feedback. It would be really helpful to have that information.” Pleitéz Howell agreed, noting that Commissioners would hear from some of First 5 LA’s community partners during the next presentation.

For more information, see slides 13-19 here.

Following a scheduled break, the meeting next turned to a presentation on First 5 LA’s continued commitment to engage communities. Executive Vice President of Family Systems & Human Resources John Wagner began by noting that the work in community engagement going forward should be informed by the lessons learned from the Best Start initiative, one of First 5 LA’s largest and longest-running investments in community engagement. For an overview of the Best Start initiative, please see slides 4-6 here.

Deputy Director of Communities Joaquin Calderon followed next with a discussion on the recurring themes and challenges related to Best Start’s work with the communities. These included power-building for residents/parents and elevating the community voice; identifying community priorities; creating conditions for collective action; and activating a network to support improved results for young children.

“As we move forward with our new strategic plan in our fiscal reality, coordinating our collective efforts is more urgent than ever,” Joaquin said. “Working in partnership with communities has been critical to the success of Best Start efforts because families and residents are knowledgeable on the challenges that children and families experience in their community and the solutions that are likely to be successful.”

To read more about the key themes and challenges, please see slides 7-13 here.

Following Calderon’s presentation, Gloria Villagrana-Cruz of El Nido Family Centers and Michelle Byerly from The Nonprofit Partnership, representing the Best Start Regional Network Grantees (RNGs) for Region 3 (San Fernando Valley) and Region 4 (Long Beach and Wilmington), respectively, provided an overview of their work in engaging and empowering local families and building connections to broader county-level public systems change.

“Building trust and relationships with a community — in a network of organizations and stakeholders — is critical for community change,” Byerly stressed. “When funding shifts and priority shifts, we hear a lot about not leaving money on the table or power on the table. But we really want to focus on not leaving our long-term trusting relationships on the table. These relationships are important to sustain any movement that’s happening in the community.”

To learn more about the RNGs’ work, please see slides 13-23 here.

The highlighted learnings and challenges from Best Start will help inform the next phase of First 5 LA’s community engagement work and help identify future opportunities that better align with the agency’s resources and the new strategic plan.

During the meeting, the Board also approved two items on the consent agenda:

  • Approval of Revised Records Management Policy and Records Retention Schedule: As part of its consent agenda, the Board approved First 5 LA’s proposed records retention schedule and related policy. The updated processes will ensure efficient and economical methods for the creation, utilization, maintenance, retention, preservation, and disposal of all records managed by First 5 LA. For more information, click here.
  • Approval of Amendment of Strategic Partnership with the California Community Foundation (CCF) Community Initiatives Fund: The Board also voted to approve an additional $450,000  for the Community Initiatives Fund, the fiscal sponsor for the Los Angeles Partnership for Early Childhood Investment. The amendment will enable the continued work to build sustainability strategies for the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (“AAIMM”) Community Action Teams and support the Village Fund’s Third Cohort to implement community-driven AAIMM Strategies. For more information, click here.

Lastly, the following were presented as information items to the Board and are slated for a vote at the June meeting:

  • Amend Strategic Partnership with Catalyst California (Written Information Only): First 5 LA is recommending that the Board approve an amendment to a strategic partnership in the amount of $200,000 for a total of $1,350,000 through June 30, 2025. The amendment will support First 5 LA’s work toward the 2024-2029 Strategic Plan Goals by providing regional- and countywide-level data. For more information, click here.
  • Amend the Strategic Partnership with Community Partners (Written Information Only): First 5 LA is recommending that the Board approve an amendment to a strategic partnership with Community Partners, the fiscal sponsor for the Mayor’s Fund for Long Beach (formerly the Long Beach Mayor’s Fund for Education), in the amount of $100,000 for a total project cost of $400,000 through June 2025. The additional funds will be used to support several objectives, such as engaging local stakeholder groups, expanding the Long Beach Early Learning Hub and facilitating expanded support of ECE providers as small businesses. For more information, click here.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for June 13, 2024. For more information, please visit 72 hours in advance of the meeting date.

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