Manatee County: $4M at stake in juvenile detention bills

skennedy@bradenton.comApril 22, 2014 

MANATEE -- With almost $4 million at stake, Manatee County officials are supporting a Florida House bill addressing how the state pays for local detention of young people.

"In conversations with our delegation members, we support the House side, since it includes some component to reimburse counties for the overbilling amount in prior years," said Nick Azzara, Manatee County information outreach manager. "The Senate bill does not have a reimbursement component."

The difference in the two chamber versions amounts to $3,950,508 for Manatee, said Azzara.

Under terms of Florida House Bill 5305, the state would have to pay Manatee County about $171,928 annually over 23 years to make up for past billing errors, he said.

"All of the counties contend it's a more equitable billing, a more accurate billing formula along with some form of reimbursement, or at least a credit for past years," Azzara said.

In 2004, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice began shifting detention costs to counties.

R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of the circuit court and comptroller, did an audit to determine the amount overpaid in 2011-12, which found the county was overcharged for 2,889 days amounting to $757,573.

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

If the House and 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 provide no back payments from the state to counties.

In other legislative matters:

• The Senate budget calls for about $10.6 million for a new library at the Bradenton campus of State College of Florida. In a separate bill, the House recommends $7.3 million, according to Jessica Klipa, SCF public information coordinator.

"Either of these amounts, if approved, would provide a portion of the funding needed for the project," said Klipa.

Students have said the facility, dating to 1977, does not meet their needs, said Gary Russell, SCF vice president of academic affairs.

"The proposed Library and Learning Center would be designed to be more adequate for 21st century learners," he added.

• Local officials also hope lawmakers will provide money for construction of a "diverging diamond interchange" at University Parkway and Interstate 75, according to a letter sent to state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, by Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle.

A line item in the House budget would set aside $115 million for Florida Department of Transportation supplemental projects, but there is no companion item in the Senate.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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