What’s a Children’s Services Council?
Children’s Services Councils, or CSCs, are established by county citizens to help fund organizations that serve children and families in the county where it exists. They were also created to make sure these dollars are being spent wisely and invested in programs that will provide the best outcomes for the children and families within their communities. Each CSC is a local dedicated funding source committed to research-based programs that impact child and family outcomes with priorities defined by the community’s needs.
Children’s Services Councils are created through the will of the people. They are first established by a county commission through a local ordinance. Voters can then approve taxing authority for a Children’s Services Council through a countywide referendum. Chapter 125.901 of Florida Statutes governs the creation and operation of CSCs. CSCs operate with multiple levels of accountability and are subject to the same rules and requirements that apply to city and county governments. By investing public dollars into local children’s programs, counties can decrease dependence on limited state and federal funds. Florida is the only state in the nation with laws that allow local county leaders and the residents of those counties create a special government entity that’s sole purpose is to invest in the well-being of children and families.
Voters have the opportunity to reauthorize CSC funding every 12 years. In counties where the CSC has already had to go through this reauthorization process, they were passed overwhelmingly. This is a strong indicator that those local communities recognized the important work their local CSC was doing and wished to continue funding it. Stories from Palm Beach County here and from Broward County here.
Interestingly, in Broward county, when the CSC was first created in 2000, it won approval with 59 percent of the vote. In 2014 when reauthorized, it won with 76 percent of the vote with huge bipartisan support. Children are not a partisan issue!
Other smaller communities, like Indian River County and Alachua County have dedicated funding in their general county budget for children's services that is overseen by a children's services advisory council.
The legacy of the dedicated funding source for children in Florida counties began in 1945 in Pinellas County following World War II. That was when local attorney Leonard Cooperman decided it was time to give troubled youth a better option than going to jail.
Cooperman drafted legislation to establish an independent body of citizens and community leaders that would have as its sole interest the welfare of children.
The Florida Legislature passed a local bill allowing Pinellas County to establish a special district for children called a “juvenile welfare board,” and levy an ad valorem tax, subject to voter approval.
Approved in 1946—by an 80-20 margin— the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County became the state’s first Children’s Services Council.
Today 10 Florida counties have Children's Services Councils dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their children. The Children's Services Council of Brevard was created by the Brevard County Commission in 1990, but has been unfunded since its formation.
HELP US FUND THE BREVARD CSC
In the Spring of 2018, the Brevard Council decided it was time to seek funding. They agreed that while statue authorizes funding up to 1/2mill ($0.50 per $1,000 in assessed value), Brevard county taxpayers appreciate low taxes and demand government agencies use every tax dollar wisely. Therefore, the council decided they would ask voters to authorize only up to 1/3 mil ($0.33 per $1,000 in assessed value), and would not go higher than 1/4 mil ($0.25 per $1,000) in the first three years.
The median home value in Brevard is just under $250,000, meaning if the CSC funding is approved in November, the average home owner in Brevard County could expect to contribute around $60 a year to support programs for Brevard kids.
At the July 24th commission meeting the council will ask the County Commission to approve ballot language to be placed on the November Ballot.
Call or write your county commissioner today and encourage them to let the voters decide if they want to invest in the health and well-being of our kids!