|Rushing to proclaim victory prematurely can be precarious....and embarrassing|
In what I can only describe as a strong and unambiguous validation for a steadfast position I have taken regarding allowable uses for Law Enforcement Trust Funds--Attorney General Pam Bondi has now communicated to the Sheriff, via an advisory opinion, that LET funds CAN be used to fund School Resource Officers.
I'm somewhat perplexed as to why the ECSO Facebook page is proclaiming this Florida AGO ruling
a victory for their previously held (and flawed) understanding of allowable uses of these funds..... This AG opinion rebukes their position. This ruling is devastating to their flawed assertions that SRO's salaries and benefits "cannot" be funded via the LETF.
So why does this matter?
This is important because the costs for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office portion of the total Escambia County School Board SRO program (School District pays the other half) run about $630,000.00 yearly. This entire amount, the sheriff's half, has been funded from his general fund personnel budget historically. What I know as a former 10 year school board member is the Escambia County School District's portion has historically been funded by a Safe Schools allocation from the State that totals about $1.2 Million yearly. The School district uses roughly $630,000 of that state allocation yearly to fund its half of the ECSO SRO program, and about $225,000 to fund the Pensacola Police Department (PPD) SRO program. The balance of roughly $300,000 yearly is used in other ways by the school district. I do not believe any portion of the school district's safe schools allocation is used or has ever been used to fund the ECSO's $630,000 portion.
So today's revelation about what the statute allows, and what Attorney General Bondi has now put in writing, is that LET funds can be utilized to fund SROs for those portions of the year (roughly 9 months out of 12 or 75% of the year) when these officers are in the schools working.
A quick review of the previous years' contracts with the school board illustrates that 75% (9 of 12 months worth of this SRO funding) or as much as $470,000.00 yearly could have been funded by the Law Enforcement Trust (forfeiture) fund for the Sheriff's half of this program--even as the program recurs yearly--without violating Florida Law.
So looking once more at where/how the LET funds were actually spent (below) over the last ten years......
It makes me think of the infamous story about how the press and others rushed to proclaim victory, prematurely, when in fact they were wrong. Meanwhile Harry Truman used their own paper against them for one of the most iconic moments in American Political History. Dewey Defeats Truman...