The Lee County Board of Commissioners (BoCC) quickly adopted the final budget for the coming fiscal year at their meeting on Tuesday evening – setting the millage rate at 4.0506, which is 3.37% higher than the roll-back rate of 3.9184 but still 2.41% lower than last year. The Board made no changes to the $400 million budget from the first public hearing two weeks ago.
During public comment, Carol Barclay of the League of Women Voters, urged the commissioners to spend more money on human services, citing a United Way study that found 8 of 28 Lee County communities had more than half their households struggling to afford basic needs.
“Lee County has resources that should be used to keep our community safe, provide services to 100% of those who could benefit,” she said. “Effective prevention and intervention have been proven to help families and law enforcement. We should invest more in people – $1 into prevention saves $7 in the future. Lee County rates for teen suicide and teen birth are the highest in the state. Low taxes are only one concern of government. You need to develop and instrument a strategic human services plan to help all who need it.”
Franklin Park Elementary Principal Dr. Bethany Quisenberry – a member of the ‘Pennies for Community Progress’ group – called for the creation of a Children Services Council and urged the commissioners to increase funding for preschool education.
“Establishing the Children’s Services Network can meet the need that we do not currently serve for our preschool children, there is a very high need for early childhood education in our school district,” she said. “Only 9% of the incoming kids at Franklin came with the basic skills they need, and that’s common throughout the county.”
The Children Services Council would raise taxes up to a half-cent per $1,000 of taxable value and that money would be used for services for young people. For it to pass, it must be enacted by the voters in a referendum. Supporters are aiming at getting it on the ballot for the November 2018 election.
Keri Hendry Weeg