Sex Offender Won't Pay School Tax

Hernando Today, KYLE MARTIN

SPRING HILL - When Stephen St. Laurent went to re-register as a sex offender Thursday, an informal chat at the sheriff's office set his mind to thinking.First he mulled over the growing restrictions against his kind: the limited jobs he can take, the bi-annual registration, the new stamp he'll get on his driver's license in February.The penalty for breaking some of the conditions means immediate imprisonment.Then it dawned on him. For the past nine years, almost half of his property tax bill has been dedicated towards the county's schools. If he can't have anything to do with children, does this violate state statute?

"They're trying every way they can to entrap a sex offender," St. Laurent said Friday.The answer was clear to him.When he sent in his $1,100 tax bill this week, it was $400 short. A clerk at the tax collector's office was quick to respond and phoned to say the check would be returned if he didn't pay the school tax.St. Laurent, 65, expects that. When the check shows up in the mail, he will march down to the courthouse and file a lawsuit against the county and state for fraud and discrimination.

He's prepared to take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.Tax Collector Juanita Sikes said roughly 5,000 people out of the 112,000 property owners in the county refuse to pay their taxes each year."It's a small percentage," she said.A lien is placed on the property if taxes aren't paid by the deadline, but citizens have about a two-year window to pony up.If the accrued interest and past taxes aren't paid in that time, the house is put on the auction block.St. Laurent has been a faithful taxpayer up until this point, Sikes noted.Occasionally, people will gripe about the school tax because they don't have any children attending classes.

St. Laurent said that's not the point.Those people can still visit the schools and see their taxpayer dollars at work. St. Laurent can't.The school district's safety and security director, Barry Crowley, confirms as much.Any sex offender who steps on a campus is trespassing. Parents who are sex offenders are given limited access to their children. For example, they can pick up their kids after school and attend parent/teacher conferences.

But even that access is closely guarded and if the parent's offense was a sexually violent crime against a child, permission to step onto school grounds is denied.St. Laurent was convicted of committing a lewd act in front of children when a pair of teenagers looked through his window and saw him masturbating. Like other sex offenders without children in school, St. Laurent is explicitly banned."There are no special allowances," Crowley said.The school tax portion of the bill is applied towards debt, the general fund and capital outlay. That includes operating costs, teacher's salaries, construction projects and textbooks.

St. Laurent has authored an autobiography about the isolation and treatment he has received with the label of sex offender. He sees the growing restrictions on sex offenders as a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects citizens against cruel and unusual punishment.The knee-jerk legislation and rules "have got to come to an end and maybe this is the way to do it," St. Laurent said of his protest. Full Story

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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