Escambia Children’s Trust Board Can’t Vote Until Governor Appoints Five More Members

February 24, 2021

The current members of Escambia Children’s Trust are unable to vote or make any decisions until the remainder of their board is appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Last November, voters approved the formation of the Children’s Trust to be funded by an increase in ad valorem taxes of up to a maximum of 0.5 mil. The trust will provide early childhood education, safety, developmental, preventative, health, and well-being services, including after school and summer enrichment programs.

Five members were appointed to the board to fill positions as mandated by state law — Escambia County School Board member Patty Hightower, Department of Children and Families Northwest Region Managing Director Walter Sachs, Circuit Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz, Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May and Escambia County School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith.

The Escambia County Commission is expected to the names of other nominees for five additional seats to the governor’s office by the end of this week, according to County Administrator Janice Gilley. DeSantis is due to make his selections within 45 days.

The five current members of the Children’s Trust held a public meeting Monday night, but they received legal advice to take no actions without a full 10-member board.

“My personal opinion, not necessarily serving as the counsel to you all, but my personal opinion that I reached was that respectfully (you are) maybe getting a little ahead of yourselves,” Escambia County Attorney Alison Rogers (pictured left) told the board members. “That’s just my personal opinion.”

The board can’t hire its own attorney at this point, since it’s unable to vote, but the Escambia County Commission has offered the use of county staff members.

“The statute itself that sets up the Children’s Services Trust talks about all the things you all have to do as you are talking and working through,” Rogers said. “And they all talk about doing those things immediately after the appointment of ‘the members’, not of some of the members, not a functioning group of members, not of half the members, not of the de facto members. It says the members.”

“So to me, if you put all three of those factors together,” Rogers said, before pausing. “Maybe a better idea might be to wait and see what the governor does.”

“We want to be legal; we want to do it in full sunshine. We want to be as transparent as possible because what we put in place needs to work, and it needs to be a viable process,” said Hightower (pictured top), board chairperson. “We are all anxious to be able to get funds into the hands of our community. We know that there is a lot of need out there, and there are a lot of people that are suffering. We don’t want to do it incorrectly. We want to make sure that what we do is in the best interest of all concerned.”

The Children’s Trust board is facing a time crunch to meet a July 1 deadline to set a millage rate. If that deadline is missed, they won’t be able to collect any tax dollars until 2022.

“Let’s move this forward as quickly as possible, but I’m not going to be politically pushed into a corner by anybody that says well we’ve got to do it ASAP,” said May. “Poverty, delinquency, has existed for the last 30 years. So if it takes another three or four months to get it right, they we ought to get it right.”

“You can’t go back if you don’t start with a solid foundation,” May added.


13 Responses to “Escambia Children’s Trust Board Can’t Vote Until Governor Appoints Five More Members”

  1. Sarah N on February 24th, 2021 3:15 pm

    Every piece of this Children’s Trust is a duplication of Services. They are aiming to do a bunch of things that are already being done by organizations that already existed and had whatever necessary governmental oversight was necessary. Now Escambia County citizens have voted to create a new, unnecessary group of people whose purpose is more vague than anything else, to raise our property taxes and spend them with almost no oversight on things that were already being done before. And the voters didn’t even get any real say-so in WHO the members of this Trust are! Really, really shady, as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Kat on February 24th, 2021 2:56 pm

    I know I didn’t vote for it.. was surprised it passed really.. as most of this is in the public school system already..

  3. Bob C. on February 24th, 2021 1:32 pm

    “Ad Valorem Taxes” come out of YOUR Homeowner’s Taxes over and above the State Requirements.
    Homeowners we’ll pay Directly for this; Renters and Leasing folks you’ll pay for it as an indirect cost from the owners in raising your rental and lease fees.
    When first advertised and later on the ballot we did NOT see even one thing that is not ALREADY PROVIDED to kids in our Public Schools, Pre-K, and the Multitude of programs they offer including Federal Lunch Programs, breakfast, lunch, other meals.
    To us, sitting around the dining room table, discussing this all we saw is a way for a very select group of people to Make Money off Us Homeowners and to rub the fur of one of the multi-millionares who feels they know what is good for we the unwashed masses. One more intrusion into OUR LIVES by the Downtown Crowd. We wish the Governor would not assign enough members and let this mess just wither away.

  4. Karen on February 24th, 2021 11:25 am

    @Lisa Fuller – You took the word right out of my mouth! I wish people would have fought against this additional tax that only taxes property owners! I was against it all along as I agree that these services are already in place & I’m tired of supporting other people’s kids! If You Cant Feed Them, Don’t Breed Them!!!

  5. No Excuses on February 24th, 2021 10:08 am

    Many voters in this county do not look at the big picture when they vote for these things. Most schools in Escambia County are free or reduced breakfast and lunch. They even have summer feeding programs and food is sent home with needy children for the weekends. Why do we need ANOTHER tax in Escambia County? We don’t. NEVER vote for new taxes on anything.

  6. bob on February 24th, 2021 9:48 am

    I agree with Anne. Are these services already provided by the government? What is different or unique about this new bureaucratic/governmental agency. What are they doing that we need or is already in place? Just another governmental agency or bureaucratic to be supported by tax dollars that will be just as dysfunctional as the rest of government???

  7. Shaking My Head on February 24th, 2021 9:29 am

    Whatever their intentions, don’t think this is going to work out. Dumb people voted for something that we already have. SMDH

  8. Sales Pinto on February 24th, 2021 9:17 am

    ANOTHER social program to help the needy? Free housing and free food, free medical is not enough? My lord. How about all these people wanting to give away tax payers money, give up their hard earned cash? How about all these people crying for social programs donate their big homes, expensive cars, and luxury meals to the needy? All these elites in Hollywood with all their money should put up or shut up.

  9. dishearted on February 24th, 2021 9:15 am

    now the gov is involved, now more corruption we the tax payers are already paying for this kind of day people will wake up to what is being done to them and do something about it… just saying

  10. Lisa Fuller on February 24th, 2021 8:20 am

    With any luck, all the parties involved will delay their actions and this tax will miss the July 1st deadline and be postponed for another year. This tax should have never passed. The equitable way would have been to present it as a sales tax increase. Everybody who voted for the tax would pay their share to support it. By making it an ad valorem tax increase, large numbers of people voted for it, knowing they would never actually have to pay the tax. That’s just wrong. We’re already paying additional tax on gasoline to subsidize a county bus system most of us don’t use.

  11. Anne on February 24th, 2021 6:38 am

    “Sketchy” is how we feel about this whole thing. Seems these services are already in place and have been for many years. Not sure why others voted to approve this and also to TAX We the People one more time for a Multi-Million Dollar project.
    Seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors that will cost much and benefit few.

  12. JTV on February 24th, 2021 6:36 am

    Another tax for hard workers to pay for the lazy. Raise your own children, they’re not my responsibility.

  13. John D Bodie on February 24th, 2021 3:06 am

    Folks, your tax dollars hard at work. 40 dollars now. One hundred in a couple of years. Isn’t it amazing how we work and the government steals our money to give away. Absolutely sickening to me.

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