YOUR OPINION: Political Action Committee Put Brevard Kids First In Favor of New Property Tax To Fund CSC

By  //  January 18, 2019

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was submitted by Put Brevard Kids First co-chair Jeff Kiel in response to a recent opinion piece by Vic Luebker, an assistant to District 5 Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi. Put Brevard Kids First is a Florida Political Action Committee (PAC) created with the express purpose to raise funds and run a public education campaign to support funding the Children’s Services Council of Brevard.

As Vic Luebker states in his January 13th column, there is no question there is a great need in our community for services to help children.

BPS has reported the number of homeless children is on the rise, as are the number qualifying for free and reduced lunches; After a tragic school year when 7 BPS students committed suicide and then the devastating Parkland massacre, outcry is growing over the lack of services available to children in crisis.

Families across Brevard experience long waitlists or must drive long distances to access basic behavioral and mental health services for their children.

However, Mr. Luebker and his boss Commissioner Isnardi take issue with the independent taxing district known as a Children’s Services Council, as outlined by Statute 125.901 of Florida Law.

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Florida Law allows counties to form either a dependent council, that reports to the county commission and is funded from the general fund tax revenues, or an independent council, where voters of a county must directly approve an ad valorem tax to be overseen by the independent council.

In 1990, the Brevard County Commission decided Brevard would operate with independent model, County Ordinance 90-41 and in 1992 the newly formed Children’s Services Council of Brevard went before voters to seek funding. The measure failed, and the council has been unfunded ever since.

However, as non-profits struggle to meet the growing demands of Brevard’s booming population, and as research shows Florida ranks 43 in the nation for children having access to care, many local child advocates believe it is time the county again consider investing in supporting and expanding services available to children here in Brevard.

Mr. Luebker’s statement that “Taxpayers are not, and should never be, the funding arm of charity,” is naive about the role many successful public-private partnerships play throughout our community.

There is a vast network of service providers that rely on state and federal grants and program funding to provide educational, medical, therapeutical and behavioral services to children. Their non-profit status allows private philanthropy to work hand in hand with government agencies to ensure the needs of local communities are being met.

Unfortunately, many of these providers are struggling to secure enough funding from private donors, state and federal budgets to meet the growing demands of our booming population.

While other counties support these efforts with dedicated funds – from either a dependent or independent Children’s Services Council – the Brevard County Commission is simply not at the table, contributing to the growing need.

Commissioner Isnardi has proposed completely dissolving the CSC without providing any plan or proposal to address the root issue: the growing gaps in services available to Brevard children.

While there is no disagreement that animal services are vital, what are parents to think when they see the County spending over $3,000,000 a year to fund animal services, but refuse to allow voters to even consider authorizing funding for the Children’s Services Council?

The two issues run parallel. Vibrant non-profits do a wonderful job of trying to help control the pet population, but it is in the interest of all residents that the County ensure services available meet the demand. Hence, dedicating millions of dollars a year to supplement and work in conjunction with existing non-profit network of providers.

That is exactly what child-welfare advocates are asking the County Commission and voters to recognize. Demand is surpassing the current capacity of local non-profits to provide services to Brevard children.

Just as all Brevard residents benefit from safe and effective animal control services, all Brevard residents benefit when we ensure children can grow up safe, healthy and ready to be productive members of society.

So if the Commission does indeed move forward with Commissioner Isnardi’s proposal to dissolve the CSC, what then is their plan to ensure that services for children in Brevard meet the demand?

– Jeff Kiel, Put Brevard Kids First co-chair

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