Juvenile board votes for tax hike

PINELLAS PARK — A county board that oversees children's programs has eliminated funding for Foundation Village in Clearwater and the Campbell Park Neighborhood Family Center in St. Petersburg.

The Juvenile Welfare Board last week voted to increase the tax rate and then cut the money for those programs.

Children who receive services at those centers will go to nearby facilities, JWB staff members said.

The board, by a 6-5 vote, elected to raise the tax rate from the current 0.734 mills to 0.7915 mills for the 2008-2009 fiscal tax year.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property.

Despite the higher rate, the JWB will have less money coming in because of declining property values. The new rate is expected to bring in about $56-million, about $2.1-million less than this year.

The JWB staff has estimated that 1,000 children would lose services because of the lower revenue.

Although the property tax revenue is expected to decline, the overall budget of $68.5-million is about $3.1-million more than the current budget. The additional money is slated to come from grants and the sale of a building.

The decision is not final. Public hearings will be held Sept. 11 and Sept. 18. The tax rate could be decreased, but not increased, at those meetings.

County Commissioner Ken Welch said that prior to the vote the board had held two public hearings and heard 99 speakers. Of those, 97 told JWB members to raise taxes so that children would not be left without services.

That reasoning did not appeal to Pinellas County resident Geoff Moakley, who pointed out that most speakers were employed by JWB programs or had children in them.

"The board members do not understand taxpayer frustration," Moakley said.

He also criticized JWB funding of programs in the Pinellas County school system.

"If anything, the School Board should be paying JWB," Moakley said. "The School Board has money. JWB should not be subsidizing the School Board."

The elimination of the Campbell Park and Foundation Village centers came as part of a $500,000 reduction in the funding the JWB gives to Pinellas Core Management Services, which the JWB established in October to oversee the county's family centers.

Pinellas Core Management already has eliminated the Everyone's Youth United program at Childs Park in St. Petersburg.

The funding and children were transferred to a faith-based group consisting of nine area churches.

Paul Lackey, Core Management executive director, said Foundation Village and Campbell Park served few children.

Most of the kids at Foundation Village, he said, are Hispanic and beginning Oct. 1, they will go to the nearby Hispanic Center.

The kids at Campbell Park can go to the Enoch Davis Center, he said.

Juvenile board votes for tax hike 07/19/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 3:15pm]

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