There will be two countywide questions on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. One asks Palm Beach County voters whether or not they would like to continue the programs of the Children’s Services Council, while the other would reauthorize the Palm Beach County School District’s .25-mill levy to fund fine arts and other special programs for another four years.
Children’s Services Council Public Information Officer Shana Cooper explained that a 2010 state statute determined that all children’s services councils need to go back to the voters for reauthorization. The size of the county determined the date by which the council needed its reauthorization.
“In Palm Beach County, we had to go back by 2016,” Cooper said. “We decided to go a little earlier, so we’re going to be on the ballot in 2014.”
As one of eight such organizations in the state that needs to be reauthorized, the Palm Beach County Children’s Services Council had concerns about being overshadowed by the 2016 political atmosphere of a presidential election year.
In Palm Beach County, the Children’s Services Council was established in 1986.
“We were established by Palm Beach County voters at that time, who determined that there was a need in our community for prevention and early intervention services, and that’s what we’ve been doing for almost 30 years,” Cooper said.
The council works to provide funding, leadership, research and services to the children of Palm Beach County, helping them as they grow up.
In 2013, more than 77,000 families and children were served by the council through maternal/child health programs, quality care and education programs, family support programs, advocacy, afterschool programs and BRIDGES, a program that works to ensure that children are prepared for school and working at their grade level by the time they are in third grade.
“We fund more than 35 agencies, and within those agencies, more than 50 programs,” Cooper said. “Everything from prenatal services to child development, services for children with special needs, to parenting — a whole range of services in the community.”
By law, the Children’s Services Council is not able to advocate for itself, which has contributed to a lack of awareness about the referendum.
“There are always children waiting for child care and waiting for help,” Cooper said. “There’s always going to be families in need.”
That need will increase dramatically if voters reject reauthorization on Nov. 4.
“If we are not reauthorized, we would slowly shut down the programs that we fund,” Cooper said. “We would have to end our contracts by June 2015. Those services would no longer be provided in the community. There are some agencies that we fund, where its more than 80 percent of their funding. Those agencies would really struggle to survive. There are many children and families in the community who may not receive the services that they need.”
To learn more about the reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, visit www.cscpbc.org/reauthorization.
The second question is whether or not the school district should have the authority to continue its .25-mill tax levy that provides district-run schools with funding for teachers, the arts and various special academic programs.
If it passes, the referendum would continue the levy until 2019. It would be up for reauthorization again in 2018.
The school district’s Robin Barrack explained that the referendum funds more than 500 teachers in district-operated schools and that the referendum is on the ballot every four years. If the referendum is not approved, “the programs that it funds, the money would have to be found from other areas in the budget, which would be difficult,” she said.
Alex Sánchez, also with the school district, explained the history behind the levy.
“The school district has been collecting a property tax for more than two decades,” he said. “In 2010, because the law changed, the school board was required to go to voters and ask them the question whether they wanted to authorize 25 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value for homeowners, to be able to use for arts, music, physical education and career academy programming. This specific referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot is not a new tax. The question is whether the voters want to reauthorize what they have been paying.”
Services provided by the levy benefit more than 90,000 students in 120 schools.
“The referendum itself, if approved, would pay for about 530 teaching positions,” Sánchez said. “Every elementary school in the county would be impacted. Several middle and most high schools would also be impacted. The referendum generates roughly $36 million per year.”
To learn more about the school district referendum, visit www.palmbeachschools.org/referendum 2014.