Leon County's idea of forming Child Services Council meets early opposition

Leon County's idea of forming Child Services Council meeting early opposition
Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-30 17:18:46-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Funding for a newly proposed Children's Services Council is meeting early opposition.

This is something that could be on your ballot in November and it involves your tax dollars.

During a meeting this week, Leon County Commissioners discussed creating the council.

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying,

"A Children's Services Council may be a potential solution to long-standing problems, but before a new independent government body should be established, our community deserves a deliberate evaluation of the issues, opportunities, and objectives."

If placed on the ballot and approved, Florida law grants each Children's Services Council the power to distribute tax revenue to maintain services needed for the welfare of children in the county.

For Leon County, that revenue could be up to 8 million dollars.

Florida Tax Watch President Dominic Calabro says creating a council with that authority has both great opportunity and great risk.

"Like, what are we going to do with that money? That's hard-earned money of people. We want to make sure that we really do something that's not currently being done," said Calabro. "We want to make sure that we tie all the organizations together, meet the gaps, so we need a really thorough need assessment in our community."

The Florida Institute for Child Welfare maintains research on how effective these services are.

Director Jessica Pryce says the more commitment and collective responsibility devoted to child welfare, the better.

"Here in Leon County, in a given year, we have approximately 5,000 maltreatment abuse reports that are coming in, so it is becoming incredibly important that we are diverting these families from foster care, and whether the prevention is primary or tertiary," said Pryce. "We're trying to bring them to a state of wellness and wholeness, so they are not coming back into our system."

Tuesday's commission meeting included a request for public hearing in April, which is also Child Abuse Prevention Month.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - At this week's Leon County commission meeting, the idea of forming a Child Services Council was discussed, but met with hesitation by some commissioners and community leaders.

A Florida state statue allows counties to vote on creating a Child Services Council. This would be comprised of designated appointees, and act as a separate governing body and taxing authority.

In the state of Florida, only nine of the 67 counties currently have a Child Services Council, with Leon County ranking higher in regard to children services than 70 percent of the counties with a designated council.

Of course there is a need in Leon County to help the children, but a council like this could cost the community a lot of money, up to 8 million dollars per year.

The biggest concern of many community leaders is not knowing what the biggest need for the children is. Instead, there's a push to vote on the formation of the council then deciding on the need.

"We should tap the brakes and maybe take a minute and say 'what does the community need?' We should do a needs analysis and figure out and if children's services and there are specific issues that need to be addressed, then I'm all in," said Commissioner Bryan Deslonge. "I don't like setting up a funding source and then working out the details later."

At Tuesday's county commission meeting, commissioners voted to have a public hearing on the item later this spring to summer. From there, a vote will be held to see if the "children's services council" should be put on the November ballot.

Commissioner Desloge did say that anyone can email any of the county commissioners with any questions or concerns.