At a meeting on Tuesday June 22nd in the Leon County Commission Chambers, the Leon County Children’s Services Council (CSC) unanimously voted to levy a .375 mills property tax to raise funds to support the groups programs. Leon County’s CSC was created after a voter referendum last November was approved by approximately 65% of the vote.
Also, during the meeting, the ten-member group discussed spending money on programs before the completion of a needs assessment.
The Property Tax
The adopted property tax will not be in place until October, 2021 and funds will not be available to the CSC until December. Leon County recently loaned the CSC $400,000. However, the proceeds from the loan can only be used for operating expenses.
Based on Florida law, the maximum tax the CSC was allowed to levy was 0.5 mill. According to CSC Treasurer Paul Mitchell, for a home with a taxable value of $200,000, the tax would raise $75. If the home has a taxable value of $100,000, the tax would raise $37.50.
During the budget meeting Superintendent Rocky Hanna, Leon County Commissioner Carolyn Cummings, and CSC Treasurer Mitchell discussed the millage rate options.
Mitchell told the CSC that a .25 millage rate would raise $4.6 million, the .375 rate would raise approximately $7 million and the .5 millage rate would raise $9.3 million.
Hanna says he’s been in favor of the full half of a mill in the past, but wanted to compromise with other CSC members who wanted a lower rate.
According to WCTV, Hanna said “I want us to win. And I want us to compromise. I don’t want this to be a political arm wrestling, because we have a lot of decisions to make.”
The Needs Assessment
Critics of the CSC argued that a needs assessment should have been completed before the CSC proposal was placed on the ballot. However, advocates countered that a comprehensive needs assessment would be completed if the initiative passed, before programs were funded.
Now some advocates are supporting spending on programs before a needs assessment due to the level of need in the community. State law requires a needs assessment, but the assessment is not required before funding programs.
At least two CSC members – Leon County Commissioner Carolyn Cummings and Pineview Principal Carmen Connor – advocated for spending money before a needs assessment is completed. A decision on the issue was not finalized.
The CSC did create a needs assessment committee, which included Zandra Glenn, George O’Bryant, Darryl Jones, Jonathan Sjostrom and Carmen Conner.
The CSC’s next meeting will be held July 8 at 2 p.m.