I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Cut the SRO Program?

Bellview Middle School is one of the seven schools that might lose their SROs.  Why cut the SRO program?

I get it that we are at somewhat of a budget impasse at the moment--but why cut the SRO program?

Bellview Middle School without a SRO??--this could be problematic.  Bailey Middle without the SRO??  We are going to have parents enraged.  This won't be pretty.

Of course, this is the Sheriff's prerogative if he chooses--but 1/2 of the cost of the SRO's is funded by the school board, and 1/2 of the benefits for the SRO officers is funded by the School District as well.

If he chose to--the Sheriff could offset his costs of the SRO program even more, by utilizing Law Enforcement Trust Funds to accomplish this by funding some of his 1/2 using LET funds.

SRO's are specifically called out as an allowable use of LET funds--so instead of funding charitable groups to such an extreme level--as has been occurring over the last several years----some of this money could be used for the SRO program.  This would free up general fund dollars for the ECSO to fund other issues--like compression pay or raises.

Plus--the contract for the SRO's with the school district gives the sheriff the ability to pull the officers out of the schools when necessary due to emergency situations or need.  This seems like a win-win for budgetary and pragmatic reasons that strongly benefits the ECSO.

So again I ask--"Why cut the SRO Program?"

I'm going to suggest that we discuss the LET funding at an upcoming BCC meeting--especially in light of this letter from the state attorney...........

The embarrassing article and cartoon from Sunday should also be a wake up call for the BCC.

I think we need to establish a better process for approving the expenditures from this LET fund

before checks are written.  I'd like to see us discuss with the Sheriff the idea of utilizing some of these funds for the SRO program--rather than cutting the SRO program.

But we don't run the ECSO general fund, we don't question the expenditures of general appropriations lower that the functional category level.

We do, however, have a statutory role to play in approving LET expenditures that we need to look more closely at, apparently.

Because, at the end of the day--I just want us to work collaboratively if we can, more openly and transparently, and without the personal attacks we are sustaining when we have genuine disagreements with the Sheriff.  That is my goal.


Anonymous said...

You have been on the BCC for six months. Has the Sheriff been forthright with you from your installation about this issue? Is he cordial and
Easy to work with? This issue seems to only recently to have come on the public's radar.

Eric Haines said...

The cutting of contracted services has nothing to do with funding and everything to do with a lack of experienced deputies to fill the positions. When we are losing over 60 deputies in a year and only getting 35 out of training, we have to start exiting optional services until a remedy is in place. Court Security for the building was fully funded into our budget. We are exiting that as well because we don't have the trained deputies to fill those positions. Until a plan is in place to slow the bleeding we will have to plan for the drain to continue.

Regarding LET funding I disagree. Even if LET could be used for salaries, the portion of the year that SRO's work for the school board is fully funded through the Safe Schools Grant. The rest of the year is funded by our general fund. That unfunded half would certainly not be LET eligible. I would also start with the BOCC if we are going to talk about giving general fund tax dollars (not seized drug money) to non profits. The commissioners also give themselves $250,000 a year in discretionary funds that also come out of the general fund.

Anonymous said...

Jeff I most of the time don't agree with you. But I think you are spot on with this issue. Problem is the sheriff seems like he would like to strong arm the board rather than coming with a level head and figuring things out. We can't be giving out a blank check when funds can be reallocated currently

Jeff Bergosh said...

8%...that is what this is about. Sheriff wants an 8% increase over what he requested and received last year. 8%!

Other constitutional offices, the ones that do not have mandatory or formulaic budgeting requirements are taking cuts (Supervisor of Elections and Clerk's office are both getting between a 1-2% reduction) we initially have offered the Sheriff a 1.57% increase over last year's adopted amount ---yet he is demanding an 8% increase over what he requested and received last year! No compromises he has stated. 8% he is requesting even as he sees we have a $9 Million dollar hole in our budget this year. I have stated publicly that I am willing to find a way to bump his portion up and I believe we will, to probably a 3-4% increase over last year. But an 8% increase is a lot to ask for in one bite when everyone else is being asked to go without raises and tighten the belt....I will support bumping his allocation up--so he can fund raises for his street deputies. I'll do this so long as we give our jail corrections officers, firefighters, and EMS crews an equal pay increase--because I value all first responders.

Anonymous said...

Just curious...if the SRO positions are fully funded (during the school year) through The Safe Schools Grant, then why would it make fiscal sense to cut any of the SRO program? These are experienced deputies that could be placed in needed areas during the summer when tourism is high and allow other deputies to take time off with their families if they so choose. Another option would be to employ SROs as 10 month employees. Many local and state agencies offer these types of positions. In fact, the majority of the ECSD employees are 10 months.