Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow announced a bipartisan coalition on Wednesday, in an effort to push back against proposed property tax to address children’s issues in Leon County.
Holding a press conference outside City Hall, Matlow, along with community activists and bipartisan groups — Budget Hawks and the Network of Entrepreneurs— announced a partnership to oppose the Children Services Council Tax (CSC) set to appear on the ballot this November.
The group, called the No Blank Check Coalition, opposes creating a new taxing district that is not accountable to the voters.
“It was only five years ago that local leaders vehemently disputed the fact that Tallahassee is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country. So while the planning committee was tasked with demonstrating the need for a CSC — they have shown just the opposite,” Matlow said at today’s press conference.
“They have demonstrated so much need that an $8 million annual tax could barely scratch the surface. The CSC is proposing a bandaid when we are in need of a hospital. It gives the illusion of accomplishing something, appealing to our good intentions while absolving local government from addressing the issue head-on,” he continued.
If approved by voters this November, the referendum would create a Children’s Services Council that would be allowed to levy a property tax up to 50 cents for every $1,000 of value to fund services for children.
The proposal is estimated to levy approximately $96 million in taxes on property owners over a 12-year period to fund a council that would administer the proceeds to nonprofit agencies.
The council must include four elected officials, the administrator of the Department of Children and Families, as well as five citizens nominated by the County Commission and appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Emily Fritz, Chairman of the No Blank Check Coalition, said the taxing and spending authority should stay in the hands of elected officials.
“The Children’s Services Tax is a blank check. There is no plan for how the money will be spent, what the expected results will be, and how to measure the results,” said Fritz, a former state association director “The people who will spend the money are not elected, so you can’t vote them out of office. If you don’t like how they spend your money, you are stuck for 12 years.”
With much of the city still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, opponents of the initiative claim that businesses and citizens trying to get back on their feet can’t afford another bill. Proponents, however, argue that the CSC would be vital in eliminating poverty and providing valuable resources to children who are less fortunate.
If successful, the CSC will be the tenth established in Florida. By statute, the CSC will be put up to voters at least every 12 years for reauthorization or dissolution.
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