Florida Legislature to Stick Counties With Juvenile Detention Bill

Lawmakers plan to make counties start picking up the tab for running state juvenile detention centers in their communities.

The cost shift could impact other services you've come to depend on.

Bike shop owner Joe Mezzina says a plan to make counties start paying for their own juvenile detention centers raises some red flags.

He's concerned the multi-million dollar price tag could mean cutting money from other areas that would affect his family.

"Depending on what those are, if it's a matter of looking to cut back our education, I think we need to do something else,” Mezzina explains.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus is lobbying against the plan at the capitol. She says if it passes, counties will have to raise taxes or take the money from somewhere else.

"It might affect what we're able to do for security issues, $4.4 million for my county. It's a bigger hit to smaller counties who don't have the ability to come up with the money that they hadn't projected,” Marcus adds.

But lawmakers say it's only fair.

The state is going to pick up the entire cost of running the court system.

The counties need to carry their weight. Senator Victor Crist says counties will ultimately save a quarter-billion dollars when the state starts paying court costs.

"What you saw happen this year was just a realignment. The state took over the responsibility of the county court system and now the counties are going to need to take over the responsibility of their pre-trial detention along with a few other items, so it's going to be a wash,” says Crist.

Paying for juvenile detention will cost counties anywhere from $7,000 in Lafayette County up to nearly $12 million in Miami Dade.

Lawmakers say they're giving counties an extra three months to budget for the extra expense of the juvenile detention facilities.

Counties may also get the option of running the juvenile facilities as well as paying for them; something lawmakers say would give the local governments more flexibility.


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