Creating a CSC
About Children's Services Councils
A Children's Services Council (CSC) is a countywide special taxing district created by ordinance, and approved by voters, to fund programs and services that improve the lives of children and their families.
To date, nine Florida counties have created CSCs that invest taxpayer dollars in the well-being of their community’s children and families. While the services offered and age groups served vary depending on the needs of the community, the primary focus of all CSCs is to invest in prevention and early intervention programs that produce measurable results.
In eight counties, voters have approved “independent” taxing authority for their CSC to ensure that a dedicated funding source is available for children’s programs and services. In addition to Palm Beach, the other counties with independent districts are Broward, HIllsborough, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Pinellas and St. Lucie. Duvall County (Jacksonville) operates as a "dependent" district, relying on funding from different sources, including county government, to pay for children's programs and services.
The CSC special district is unlike any other in the nation. Florida is the only state where a community has the power, by law, to create a special district with taxing authority for the sole purpose of investing in the well-being of children and their families. While many other organizations address the needs of young children, no other public entity provides such an umbrella for leadership, coordination and oversight concerning the status of children.
The legacy of the dedicated funding source for children in Florida counties began in 1945 in Pinellas County. That was when local attorney Leonard Cooperman decided it was time to give troubled youth a better option than going to jail. Cooperman drafted legislation to establish an independent body of citizens and community leaders that would have as its sole interest the welfare of children in Pinellas County. Recognizing that resources would continue to be a barrier to meaningful change, Cooperman had the idea to combine the independent body with the special taxing district mechanism -- the first time this had ever been done in the United States.
Cooperman took his idea to Juvenile Court Judge Lincoln Bogue who embraced the proposal. He then worked to mobilize citizens to encourage their legislative delegation to propose a local law implementing the measure, which they did. That same year, the Florida Legislature passed a local bill allowing Pinellas County to establish a special district for children called a "juvenile welfare board," and levy an ad valorem tax, subject to voter approval.
In 1946, Pinellas County voters approved (by an 80-20 margin) both the special district and its taxing authority, creating the Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB) of Pinellas County. In 1990, county voters approved raising the district’s millage rate from 50 cents to a maximum of $1 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Today, the JWB, now known as JWB - CSC of Pinellas County, is the oldest and longest-running of the CSCs in Florida.
Nearly 40 years after the JWB was approved, citizens in Palm Beach County sought to establish a special taxing district for children in their county. At that time, services for children were random, scattered and islands unto themselves. If a child needed a variety of services, parents went to a variety of places, filled out a variety of paperwork and told their story a variety of times. The child was also treated as an individual, rather than as part of a family whose hardships or issues contributed to their child’s needs.
With the combined efforts of citizens, and support from champion legislators Sen. Harry Johnston and Rep. Mike Friedman, Palm Beach County succeeded in getting the Florida Legislature to pass the Juvenile Welfare Services Act. Effective Oct. 1, 1986, this enabling legislation provided that any county in Florida, whose voters agreed through referendum, could create a special district for children’s services with a governing board and the authority to levy taxes. On Nov. 4, 1986, the voters of Palm Beach County approved creation of the Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County by a 70-30 margin.
Anatomy of a CSC
Today, Chapter 125 of the Florida Statutes allows a CSC to be created by ordinance of the county government (board of county commissioners). County voters may, by countywide referendum, approve taxing authority for the CSC. If approved, Florida law specifies that the CSC can use local tax money only to serve the children and families within the boundaries of the CSC county.
Composition of the CSC governing board is also outlined in the law, with most boards having 10 members.  Five members are ex-officio: the school superintendent, one local school board member, the district administrator of the local Department of Children and Families, a juvenile court judge and one member of the board of county commissioners. The remaining five members are appointed by the governor to four-year terms, and, to the extent possible, represent the demographic diversity of the population of the county.
The composition of some CSC governing boards may vary depending on the ordinance creating the CSC. More information about CSC governing board composition is available on the individual CSC websites.
Another key element contributing to the success of a CSC is the professional staff. The staff manages important functions such as accounting and finance, program coordination, program evaluation, training, outreach, and research and analysis. The size of the CSC and level of services provided largely determine the number of staff and the level of expertise needed.
Independent and Dependent Districts
Of the nine CSC districts in Florida, eight are independent and one is dependent. CSCs with voter-approved taxing authority are considered to be independent special districts. Independent CSC can levy ad valorem taxes for the sole purpose of funding programs and services for children. Currently, the rate of levy set by the statute is up to 50 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property value. Palm Beach and Pinellas counties both returned to referendum and received voter approval to increase their millage cap up to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.
For example, in a county with an independent CSC at a millage rate of .5, an individual with a homestead property assessed at $200,000, minus the $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay $75 a year to fund children’s services in their community.
Independent CSC special districts are located in: Broward, Hillsborough, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and St. Lucie counties.
CSCs can also operate in Florida as “dependent” special districts, meaning they do not have taxing authority so they must rely on different funding sources to pay for children’s programs and services. In most cases, funding comes from a portion of property taxes collected by the county government. Other funding sources may include foundations created by the CSC.
The one dependent special district in Florida is Duval County.
Serving Florida’s Children
The Florida statute enacting Children’s Services Councils specifically prohibits them from directly funding school district programs. It also makes clear that these are additional dollars to increase resources for children and families, not to supplant those already provided through other means. The law does provide for a broad spectrum of services and functions that CSCs can perform. Each CSC can, and does, craft its own mission and goals, and bases those on the specific needs of the individual communities.
All CSCs collect information and statistical data, and conduct research that is helpful to the CSC and the county in deciding the needs of children in the county. Many coordinate with other agencies, funders (public and private), stakeholders, and others dedicated to the welfare of children. This ensures the best use of money, and that services and programs are available to the greatest number of children needing them.
How Funds Are Awarded
CSCs operate on an Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 fiscal year. They prioritize funding based on research and data that indicates where the needs exist for children and families in their communities. CSC governing boards also play an important role in this process. Funding is awarded to service providers on a competitive basis. CSCs closely monitor programs for performance and measurable results.
A Community Return on Investment
CSCs benefit communities in a number of ways. CSCs focus on serving all children, not just a particular demographic or economic segment of the population. CSCs can also serve as an effective way to eliminate (or reduce) "turfism" and identify ways to use local resources more efficiently. They bring key players to the same table, theoretically looking at the whole child (in family and community context). Other CSC benefits include:
CSCs educate citizens about children’s issues and create stronger constituencies for children. CSCs become the hub of child advocacy in a county, broadening the constituency of advocates and concentrating efforts, thereby strengthening advocacy. As CSCs become the trusted source of information about children, they have become more powerful forces at the state level.