Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Juvenile justice funding snared in state budget dispute

TALLAHASSEE — For years, county officials say, they've had to shoulder too much of the cost of dealing with young offenders. In recent years, they say, the state has erroneously billed them $140 million for juvenile justice costs, sparking legal action.

Now, with the annual legislative session drawing to a close, the costs are at the center of the latest budget dispute.

Lawmakers have proposed a new funding formula that counties agree would avoid future billing disputes. But only the House proposal, HB 5305, also reimburses counties for previous overpayments through small annual installments.

Counties — especially large urban centers that are bearing the brunt of costs — are hoping the Senate will embrace the House plan during budget negotiations that begin when lawmakers return Monday.

"When the state overbills us over $14 million (over several years), we need to be compensated," said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman.

The funding dispute affects 38 counties that since 2004 have been expected to help pay a portion of the costs of incarcerating youths before they are sentenced. The 29 more rural counties are considered "fiscally constrained" and are exempt from the requirement.

In the past decade, 19 counties have filed legal challenges against the Department of Juvenile Justice over billing issues. They argued that the state arbitrarily shifted up to 75 percent of detention costs to counties in some years.

The House and Senate hope to end that litigation through a new billing formula that requires counties to pay 50 percent of youth detention costs. But the two chambers disagree on whether counties should be credited for the extra money they paid in previous years.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is chairman of the Senate's criminal justice budget committee. He said his proposal, SB 1532, factored in past overpayments when he came up with the 50-50 formula. "Our percentage split is more generous than perhaps it would be otherwise because we acknowledge that the counties have this argument that they believe they are owed back payments," Bradley said.

If the House and the Senate can't iron out a compromise during budget deliberations, Gov. Rick Scott's billing plan would likely be implemented. It would require counties to cover 57 percent of juvenile detention costs and receive no back payments.

The Florida Association of Counties has labeled it the worst of the three plans. For instance, Hillsborough would owe $4.3 million and Pinellas would owe $3.4 million next year under Scott's plan, significantly more than under either the House or Senate plan.

"It remains to be seen if we're able to resolve this matter in the two weeks that are left in this session," Bradley said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, the ranking Democrat on the House's Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, believes the best solution includes reimbursing counties for overpayment.

"It's been a thorny issue," he said. "Counties have felt for some time that they are right and should have not been overbilled. The Department of Juvenile Justice has dealt with budget constraints and felt that it was right."

Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or

.Fast facts

Juvenile justice billing

How much counties would owe in 2014-2015 under the House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott's proposal:


House: $272,202

Senate: $305,046

Scott: $409,907


House: $2.7 million

Senate: $3.2 million

Scott: $4.3 million


House: $1 million

Senate: $1.2 million

Scott: $1.6 million


House: $2.1 million

Senate: $2.5 million

Scott: $3.4 million

Palm Beach

House: $1.6 million

Senate: $1.9 million

Scott: $2.6 million


House: $3.7 million

Senate: $4.1 million

Scott: $5.6 million


House: $3.7 million

Senate: $4.2 million

Scott: $5.7 million

Source: Florida Association of Counties

Juvenile justice funding snared in state budget dispute 04/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man crashes into parked cars, gate at the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque


    A Tampa man intentionally drove his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Shaun H. Urwiler, 42, was arrested July 16 for intentionally driving his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. USF hoops to play at Indiana in November


    The USF men's basketball team is set to get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse in non-conference play next season.

  3. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  4. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  5. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, first said the boy raped her, then changed her story, detectives say.