Manatee County receives $800,000 break on juvenile costs

jdeleon@bradenton.comJuly 11, 2013 

MANATEE -- In response to an appellate Florida court ruling, the Department of Juvenile Justice has reduced the amount it bills all counties for the cost of juvenile detention effective immediately.

In June, the First District Court of Florida ruled the Department of Juvenile Justice was improperly forcing counties to pay more than their fair share for juvenile detention.

In Manatee County, the ruling means total yearly billing for juvenile detention will be cut 57 percent from more than $1.4 million to less than $600,000.

"It will mean we will be able to address many of the needs of the community by being proactive with at-risk juveniles," Children's Services Advisory Board member Barbara Harvey said.

Shifting the state cost of juvenile detention to the counties began in 2004.

Since then Manatee County has been using funds from the Children's Services Dedicated Millage to pay for juvenile detention. This tax enacted in 1990 was to fund community programs for neglected, abused, disadvantaged and at-risk youth.

Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen has been pushing to correct the overbilling.

"I was thrilled that they adjusted the amount we owe," Gallen said. "The courts had decided they were overcharging us and all the counties."

Counties are billed monthly for juvenile detention costs by the state. Manatee County was billed $118,869 in July and a revised statement shows the new cost as $44,734 -- a reduction of 62 percent.

Counties that have already paid the July invoice will receive a credit.

In March, the Manatee

Children's Services Advisory Board and County Commissioners began a three-year process of shifting the responsibility for paying juvenile detention costs back to the general revenue fund.

The Children's Services Board should immediately start to feel the effects of the cost reduction, Gallen said.

"My hope is that the children services board will have more revenue to perpetually expand children's services in the county," Gallen said. "I think it will also help the county's general revenue fund."

Over the years, Children's Services has had to cut back on programming.

The county administration is now expected to put money back into services designed to reduce the number of children in detention.

Gallen and others statewide still questions how much counties have been overbilled in the past for juvenile detention. DJJ Communications Director Meghan Speakes said negotiations on overbilling are ongoing.

Gallen said he is happy the courts have favored the counties.

"We will be able to provide services at a higher level, providing after-school and weekend assistance for our children as well as their families," Harvey said.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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