If approved, money from property taxes would be distributed to local organizations.
Sarasota County commissioners are considering a November ballot question on establishing a mental health taxing district, designed to set aside a dedicated revenue stream, apart from the general fund.
Residents have the chance to weigh in on the issue through a seven-question online survey. The survey is meant to assess support for the district and how much of an increase, if any, residents would support on their annual property tax bill.
Currently, the commission budgets general fund money for health and human services. In fiscal year 2020, the county combines $9 million in local tax revenue with money from private, state and federal sources fund to total about $37 million in funding.
Although Commissioner Nancy Detert supports the idea of the district, she expressed concerns with giving one category of organizations dedicated funding while keeping others on the general fund.
“You’re going to have a protected species, and then everybody else is fighting over chum to the sharks,” Detert said during a Feb. 4 commission meeting.
The county does not own or operate mental health facilities, instead contracting with nonprofit providers.
About $5.4 million is contracted for crisis stabilization, hospitalization and residential services, among others, while approximately $3.6 million is provided to the criminal justice system to provide homeless and mental health outreach and specialty court programs.
Although all commissioners showed support for the district, they suggested adding language that would create a sunset provision.
“I think it should have some sunset or review to show the public, ‘OK, it’s been in place now five years or 10 years, and this is what it’s accomplished,’ and let the public renew it,” Commissioner Charles Hines said.