SOS issue goes to city

By The Mercury

An ad hoc group’s effort to force an increase in social service spending will go to the City Commission in June, and then possibly to the ballot box.

County clerk Rich Vargo said Thursday that a petition campaign by an organization known as Save Our Social Services (SOS) collected 1,500 valid signatures of registered city voters, six more than were needed to force the city to consider the proposal.

The petitions ask the City Commission to adopt an ordinance drafted by SOS that would set aside an amount equal to 2 percent of the city’s general fund budget on social service programs annually. By law, commissioners must put adoption of the ordinance on their agenda for consideration within 20 days. Given the Commission’s normal work schedule, that would suggest its inclusion either at the June 5 regular meeting or during a special session June 12.

If commissioners do not adopt the ordinance, they must place it on a ballot, where voters will decide whether to accept or reject it. Although commissioners would have the option of calling a special election, the August primary election would fall within the window for doing so.

Technically, the petition still faces one more hurdle before it gets to the Commission. It must be reviewed by the city’s legal staff to determine whether it is validly written. Incoming city attorney Katie Jackson is in the process of preparing a memo for commissioners in that regard, although outgoing city attorney Bill Frost Thursday would not speculate on what Jackson might find.

In addition to setting aside 2 percent of general fund spending for social service programs, the proposed ordinance would also require the commission to retain the Social Services Advisory Board as the entity making recommendations on social service commitments, and it would stipulate that unallocated funds in a given year must be held over for future use in social service programs.

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