Could higher taxes help reduce teen crime in Lee County?

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MGN Online

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Some Lee County leaders want to create a new council to help curb crime and violence among teenagers.

The Children’s Service Council would cost property owners an additional $35 every year and would offer programs during after-school hours and over the summer.

Similar councils exist in seven other Florida counties. Sean Boyle leads the Children’s Service Council in St. Lucie County and said the focus is keeping young people out of trouble.

“We know if teens don’t have anything to do they will get in trouble. We’ve all been there. We give them something positive to do,” Boyle said.

Boyle spoke at a public meeting at the Fort Myers News-Press on Wednesday. He said the council has drastically reduced his county’s teen birth rate and made neighborhoods safer.

The cost of the Children’s Service Council is not too costly, Boyle said.

“The average homeowner pays $35 a year for it, so you have to ask: ‘Is $35 worth it to make our communities healthier? Worth it to make the community safer?'” he said.

Increasing property tax for any program is a hard sale. One taxpayer, Jeanene Blankenship, said the county should assess the success of current programs.

“I think we have lots of children’s programs now. Why don’t we see if they work?” she said. “I am not for property tax raising.”

Others believe they would support the costs of the program.

“I would vote for it to give kids something to do. They need to be off the streets,” Lee Jacobs said.

The Children’s Service Council will not reach voters for another two years if Lee County commissioners decide to put the issue on the ballot. Voters would vote whether to approve the council in November 2018.

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