Commissioners propose reallocating LETF money for SRO program
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) —
In an effort to make Florida schools safer, the Escambia County Commission wants to reallocate money seized in drug busts and other illegal activities to help fund school resource officers.
The commission agreed to send a letter to Governor Rick Scott.
The letter will ask the governor to set aside Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF) money to supplement the School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
The commission and local law enforcement support the governor's school safety plan to fortify schools.
Under the plan, Gov. Scott would require every school to have one SRO for every 1,000 students.
Commissioners feel using LETF money can help make that happen sooner.
In a 4 to 1 vote on Thursday, commissioners agreed to send the letter to the governor.
District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill was the only dissenting vote.
Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh said, "The question is simple. Can we set aside 50 percent of this forfeiture money statewide and make that go to the schools first."
Bergosh doesn't think it will solve the problem but it will help.
He said he would rather use public versus taxpayer money.
"School resource officers, that's an allowable use under the statute, but right now in Escambia County for the last 10 years we haven't used any Law Enforcement Trust Fund money for our School Resource Officer program so going forward I think this is a smart thing to do," Bergosh said.
However, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said that's easier said than done.
Morgan said he would follow whatever decision the legislature made on allocating LET funds to pay for SROs.
But, he still has his concerns.
Morgan said, "My issue with using the LET fund for recurring costs is that's an extremely bad idea to use that for annual budgeting. Number one because you can't."
Under Gov. Scott current school safety plan ECSO would have to hire 34 additional SROs.
"That's a very finite cost. We know what that's going to be. You want me now to use part of my funding for that on a fund that I can't tell you what it'll be next year," Morgan said.
The sheriff said money in the LET fund changes every year.
He doesn't want the governor's plan to have SROs in every school become an unfunded mandate the county would have to absorb.
Sheriff Morgan said it will be hard to meet the governor's requirements because of recruitment and pay structure issues.
"If you magically gave me the budget that I requested today for everything across the board we'd be lucky in two years to be able to meet all of our manning requirements," Morgan said.
Sheriff Morgan said the governor will recommend they give legislative relief as far as being able to hire a mix of armed security and SROs.