Tallahassee Reports recently interviewed attorney Jon Moyle, an advocate for the creation of a Children Services Council. The purpose of the interview was to document the rationale for a CSC in Leon County from an advocate’s perspective and to get answers to several questions posed by critics of the initiative.
A CSC is an independent, special district which by state law can levy up to a half mil property tax for children services. Advocates point out that for the average homestead property in Leon County this tax is less than $50 annually. It is estimated that the tax could raise $6-8 million in the first year.
The council is required to include four elected officials (superintendent of schools, a school board member, county commissioner and juvenile court judge), the local Department of Children and Families administrator, and five citizen members nominated by the Leon County Commission and appointed by the governor.
Moyle said the rationale for a CSC is based on the success of other CSC’s around the state of Florida and the children services challenges faced in Leon County.
More specifically, Moyle highlighted juvenile crime and school readiness for children 0-5 years of age as two major issue impacting Leon County children.
Moyle’s comments were consistent with the findings of a CSC planning committee which was convened in 2018 and pinpointed three priority areas: “success in school and life,” “healthy children and families,” and “stable and nurturing families and communities.”
Seeking Answers to Three Questions
Critics of the initiative have voiced a number of concerns about the CSC. TR identified three questions that address the major concerns of those oppsoed to the initiative and asked Mr. Moyle to respond.
First, with an $8 million first year budget, how much will be spent on administration costs?
Critics have been concerned about the lack of financial projections and are concerned about high administrative salaries. It has been reported that the Executive Director of the Palm Beach County CSC has an compensation package of approximately $250,000.
Mr. Moyle said the annual administrative costs would be between 6%-12%. He noted that these administrative costs would be significantly less than the benefits of the programs.
Second, provide examples of three current children services programs in Leon County that have been evaluated as effective, but are short on resources?
Mr. Moyle did not mention any programs in Leon County. However, he highlighted the success of the St. Lucie County CSC in reducing juvenile crime. Media reports indicate that since the creation of the St. Lucie County CSC there has been a 52 percent reduction in juvenile crime since 2001.
And third, assuming advocates are correct about the need for children services, why does a new governing body need to be created versus using the Blueprint approach to children services?
Critics of the CSC process, which include City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow and Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor, argue that it would be more efficient for local government to provide financial resources for children services from current local government revenues rather than create a CSC.
Mr. Moyle counters this argument by saying that a CSC will provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue for children services. He adds that without the CSC structure, children services will become just another government program competing for limited local government revenues year after year.