City, County Question Who Is Responsible For Teen Center

Jun 21, 2016

Credit City of Tallahassee

A question about funding for Tallahassee’s Palmer Munroe Teen Center is highlighting a dispute between the city and county about where one government’s responsibility ends and the other’s begins.

The future of the Palmer Munroe Teen Center is in question after the County Commission declined earlier this month to renew its portion of the funding for the center. County Commissioner Kristen Dozier points out the county budget is smaller than the city budget and she says projects like the teen center make more sense coming out of city coffers.

"It’s not just a magic bullet. We need a lot of different things in our community working to address these issues and help all of us. We fund a lot. The city funds a lot,” Dozier says.

County Commissioner Nick Maddox echoes that idea, saying the decision about whether to fund the teen center comes down to picking one organization over another.

“If we give money toward a function that I believe the city should pony up and do a little more for. Then we have to take money out of those functions that we are doing as the responsibility that we have as a county. So I’m a bit conflicted. Do I want to give you the money that you’re asking for? Yes. I do. But at the same time I also want to give that $400,000 to the dental offices that need them on Bond and Neighborhood,” Maddox says.

City Commissioner Nancy Miller made a similar argument Monday when she explained to a public commenter that responsibility for healthcare at places like Neighborhood Health Center is part of the county’s, not the city’s “job description.”

But when it comes to the Palmer Munroe Teen Center, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum argues there’s nothing that makes it specifically a city responsibility.

“I mean this was a pilot. We were trying something new. We co-located a crime prevention, treatment element next to a parks and recreations facility. The only thing that makes this uniquely the city is the fact that it happens to be at a city parks and recreations facility. But the young people who are treated through Palmer Munroe and specifically Community Connections come from all over this county,” Gillum says.

Gillum argues getting rid of the facility is likely to have a larger impact on the county’s budget in the long run, since the county, not the city, runs the jail.

“Our ability to alleviate the rise in crime, particularly amongst our young people, who once in the system find themselves perpetually stuck in that system, that when we address that for this community, we address that not just for the city of Tallahassee. We address it for Leon County. When these crime statistics come out and we’re listed number one out of 67 counties they don’t say city of Tallahssee, they say Leon County. So we’re in this together,” Gillum says.

During a Monday budget workshop city commissioners expressed interest in helping the teen center keep its doors open, but cautioned that’s not a long term solution. Commissioners say they’re hoping the organization will be able to find additional funding from the county or grants in the future. The city is expected to discuss the issue further during its July 13 budget workshop.