Manatee children, advocates win big with return of dedicated funds

July 13, 2013 

How sweet it is. That famous catchphrase applies under these circumstances:

Manatee County's children's advocates must still be smiling today after this week's news that an additional $800,000 will be available for youth programs this coming fiscal year.

Thanks to a Florida appeals court ruling in June, the state can no longer overcharge counties for juvenile detention costs. The state Department of Juvenile Justice was forced to recalculate billings, and Manatee's monthly cost plunges from roughly $118,000 to $44,000.

Years ago, Manatee County commissioners decided to spend funds from the Children's Services Dedicated Millage to pay for those juvenile detention costs -- basically robbing a voter-approved tax that had been pledged for programs that serve neglected, abused, disadvantaged and at-risk children from birth through age 17.

Now commissioners will have a far easier time of recommitting all of that dedicated tax back into its intended purpose as officials hoped to accomplish over the next few years. Commissioner Michael Gallen led that effort, saying he was "thrilled" the new billing amount plummeted.

These are just a few of the organizations that stand to benefit from this windfall: Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Palmetto Youth Center, Just for Girls, United Community Centers, Foundation for Dreams, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

But the real winners are Manatee County's children, more of whom will benefit from the numerous safety-net programs that the dedicated tax funds. Cheers to that.

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