I am disheartened by and disappointed in the South Walton Fire District’s recent vote to deny a request by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast (BGCEC) to waive the impact fee associated with the new Club being built on Greenway Trail. Impact fees are fees typically implemented by local government agencies to help reduce the economic burden on local jurisdictions. To that end the Fire District and the BGCEC have common ground; the BGCEC is primarily concerned with reducing the economic burden of a community as well.
In fact, we operate our Clubs under the nationally promoted "Formula for Impact,” which is a directed, measurable equation that combines young people who need us most with an outcome-driven club experience and equals youth who excel by embodying our three intended outcomes of Good Character and Citizenship, Academic Success, and Healthy Lifestyles. All of these developments in a young person’s life produce a very real return on investment to the communities we serve.
Much like the Fire District, we put a quantifiable dollar value on our impact, to include the effect of those outcomes on high school graduations, healthy lifestyles, and good citizenship. Based on numbers from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, every successful youth saves a community approximately $29,432/year.
How specifically does that dollar value affect Walton County? The leading indicator of economic burden to society is high school graduation rates. Walton County’s does an excellent job of graduating high school seniors, boasting a current graduation rate of about 82%, but an even more impressive statistic the graduation rate for our BGCEC members, which stands at 100%, half of those being 1st time high school graduates in their families. Additionally, in the 10 years that we have been serving Walton County, the Boys & Girls Clubs boasts 100% grade progression at the elementary level.
Unfortunately, despite our repeated requests, supported publicly by parents, Club members, and concerned citizens at their meeting held Monday, April 2, 2012, to the South Walton Fire District Board of Commissioners to make a real impact by maximizing the nearly $14K fee via a reinvestment into the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Walton, they voted to reject our request. We were stunned by the vote because several other not-for-profit organizations received either a complete waiver or a reduced impact fee and, according to a Walton Sun article concerning similar waivers, this practice has been the precedent set by the Commission:
In the past, Chairman Maurice Gilbert said exemptions were offered to community organizations such as Sacred Heart Hospital or Regional Utilities. "If non-profits ask for relief, we give it to them,” Gilbert said. The request was considered in light of previous exemptions for non -profit organizations and unanimously approved.
We are keenly aware that the economic slowdown has reduced budget dollars, and that it may have been significant to local governmental agencies, but are also proud to assert that this worthwhile priority investment would have paid for 5 members to attend the Club for a year who otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so. Additionally, the almost $14,000 investment has the potential to save our community $147,160 per year into perpetuity.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast is a community-based organization (CBO), which means we are people-focused and reliant on strong partnerships with individuals as well as corporate and governmental organizations, but in order for the formula to work, we must be well-supported by the community. Therefore, I ask the South Walton community to please consider the impact we have in shaping the future of Walton County through nurturing of our most valuable resource: our children. Our Board of Directors has demonstrated a strong commitment to be here and has illustrated that commitment by initiating construction of a large youth development facility located within the Walton County Town Center. Please help us recoup the $14,000 impact fee for service to kids. Log on to www.bgcec.com, click "Donate Now,” and specify that your donation is to cover the SoWal Fire District impact fee.
We will not thrive or perhaps even survive to provide premier childhood development services to this deserving community without consistent financial support from all stakeholders - which includes every individual and organization in Walton County and surrounding areas.
Jessica L. Jarosz, MBA
President & CEO