Getting board in place next step for county mental health tax

Thursday, December 20, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:27 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 20, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Commission plans to put out a call for applicants to the board that will make decisions about the money from a newly passed sales tax for children's mental health after Jan. 1.

"Right now, our priority is 911," Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller said, referring to a sales tax for emergency response and management efforts that has been proposed for the April ballot.

The quarter-cent sales tax for children's mental health passed with 57.2 percent voter approval Nov. 7 and will take effect April 1. The tax is estimated to generate $5.4 million annually and spending is determined by a nine-person nonpartisan board appointed by the commission.

Miller said it will take several months to generate enough money for the board to start accepting grant proposals from social service agencies. Her guess is that money won't be spent until the end of 2014, in line with the 2014 budget cycle.

"I’m anxious for them to get rolling, but I understand that they have a lot on their plate," Christine Corcoran, who led the Putting Kids First campaign, said.

When the commission does start to address the tax, its first step will be assembling a board, Miller said.

The Putting Kids First coalition, a group of social service providers and volunteers who worked to pass the tax in Boone County, submitted examples of conflict of interest policies from other Missouri counties to the commission in August.

Any conflict of interest policy would prevent a board member from being a representative of an agency that could receive funding, Corcoran said.

Both Corcoran and Miller agreed the board should include an attorney and an accountant, and Corcoran said the board could also include bankers, pediatricians,  business leaders and clergy members.

"We want a well-rounded board that has different skills that can develop the bylaws," Miller said. 

After appointing members, the commission will determine whether the board is going to be a part of county government or a separate entity. The primary difference is that a separate entity would need to start from scratch with administrative departments such as purchasing and human resources, Miller said.

"If you had to start a business from scratch and didn’t have an accountant, didn’t have an attorney, didn’t have anything, it’s more costly, for one thing," she said.

Corcoran's first concern is the board's transparency.

"We would just hope they would be committed to the most transparent and least political process, so the board is the most independent," Corcoran said.

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