Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board needs tax boost, supporters say

Raise property taxes before you cut services to children.

That's the appeal Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board heard over and over and over again during a four-hour meeting Tuesday night that attracted about 170 people.

"Cuts to children and families never heal," Sharon Carie, chairwoman of Pinellas Advocates for Children and Families, told the board.

"We as citizens and taxpayers of Pinellas County are ready to pay the extra dollars to keep cuts from happening to children and families," she said.

Carie came from Tarpon Springs and brought to the board more than 2,000 petitions she said were signed by taxpayers. She was one of about 60 people who spoke on the idea of raising the JWB's tax rate as a way to avoid having to make up to $6.3-million in cuts to programs benefiting 9,700 children at risk.

About 170 people — leaders of nonprofits, school principals and teachers, parents, children and regular tax-payers — attended the hearing at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center.

Virtually everyone who spoke urged the JWB to raise its millage rate to save the programs.

Gulfport attorney Tommy Minkoff, chairman of the South County Council, a group of residents who advise the JWB, urged the board to consider all options in tackling the budget shortfall.

"Try to streamline where possible," Minkoff said. "Build collaborative efforts … utilizing infrastructure already in place to deliver services as cost-effective as possible."

• • •

As the local government body specifically charged with paying for programs to protect children at risk, the JWB is the primary financial supporter of many nonprofit organizations.

After a round of cuts last year, the JWB's budget for programs this fiscal year was $51-million, virtually all of it coming from property taxes.

But like cities, counties and other local governments that levy property taxes, the JWB expects reduced revenues next year for two reasons.

First, Amendment 1 expands the homestead exemption for local government taxes but not school taxes.

Second, the collapse of the real estate market is driving down property values.

Now the JWB is pondering whether to raise its millage rate to recover some of the revenue it expects to lose from the reduction in the tax base.

The JWB includes elected and judicial officials. Some hope the public will see the safety of children as a worthy reason to raise taxes. Some also argue that spending some money on crime prevention now is better than spending a lot more later on incarceration.

The JWB's millage rate last year was 0.7384 mills, or about 74 cents in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property value.

At Tuesday's meeting, the JWB staff circulated as an example an increased millage rate of 0.8069.

That would add $12 to the $114 that JWB currently collects, on average, from homeowners. That additional $12 a year would make up the $6.3-million the JWB expects to lose.

• • •

The programs in danger include help for homeless families, violence and crime prevention, child care, youth programs and mental health for severely emotionally disturbed children.

At Tuesday night's meeting, two middle schools girls asked the board to not cut $718,000 from Violence Prevention, a school-based program run by Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services.

"Now that I'm in this program I haven't gotten a referral in three months," said Kassandra Diaz, 14, a seventh-grader at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo.

"My grades are better and my future actually holds something positive now," Diaz said.

Amanda Green, 14, an eighth-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in St. Petersburg, told of how Violence Prevention counselors helped a friend.

Her friend "had a little much on her plate and dealt with it by inflicting physical pain on herself," Green said.

"If it weren't for the programs (the counselors) run, I don't know if she'd be here today," Green said.

A statewide child-protection advocate who sees the 62-year-old JWB as a model agency came to urge the board to make a bold stand and raise its tax rate.

"I have been a 30-year admirer of this board," said Jack Levine, founder of 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee. "The state of Florida and the nation has learned from you."

The JWB can serve as an example to the other eight similar agencies in Florida struggling to decide whether to raise their taxes, he said.

"At this time in the lives of children, leadership is essential," Levine said. "I urge you to max your millage. It will be celebrated. It will be honored."

The JWB board will decide whether to increase the millage in July when it votes on a final budget for the fiscal year that starts in October.

Based on support from the children's advocates who attended the meeting, board members seemed inclined do so.

"I think we need to have a vision for Pinellas," said county Commissioner Kenneth Welch, who chairs the JWB's budget committee. "I think that's what's lacking in Tallahassee."

Jose Cardenas can be reached at or (727) 445-4224.

Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board needs tax boost, supporters say 04/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2008 1:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops' medical care


    On Twitter Wednesday morning President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military, citing "medical costs" as the primary driver of the decision.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One in Vienna, Ohio, outside Youngstown, on Tuesday. Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. will not "accept or allow" transgender people in the United States military, saying American forces "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory" and could not afford to accommodate them. [Doug Mills | New York Times]
  2. Here are eight ways Florida's public schools will be different this year


    As they return to school in August, Florida students will find they have some new rights, courtesy of a state Legislature that was busy this year when it came to education. These range from the ability to speak more freely to the chance to get a little down time. Not all the rules apply to everyone equally. But barring …

    When classes begin in August, all elementary schools in Florida must offer 20 minutes of uninterrupted free time each day, one of many changes in state law that will affect education. Charter schools are not bound by the recess law. [LARA CERRI  | Times]
  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 22: A rejuvenating visit to The House of the Gods (a.k.a. Pilgrim Paradise)


    Day 22: Hospital de Orbigo to Murias de Rechivaldo: 22.3 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-22 = 520 km (323 miles)

  4. Tampa ranks high in most 'livable cities' in U.S.

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Compared to other cities in the United States, living in Tampa isn't too shabby.

    Tampa ranked No. 14 in WalletHub's Best Big Cities to Live in, taking the top spot in Florida. [Courtesy of WalletHub]
  5. Review: 'The Last Tycoon' is a dazzling adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished work


    There's no business like 1930s show business.

    Matt Bomer is Monroe Stahr in Amazon's The Last Tycoon.