Hernando school cops may be cut
BROOKSVILLE — Crossing guards and half the police officers stationed in Hernando County schools are in danger of being eliminated next fall due to budget cuts, officials said Tuesday.
Sheriff Richard Nugent said he might not be able to afford his department’s nearly 60-percent share of the $979,586 budget for school resource officers, due to last January’s passage of the Amendment 1 property tax initiative and declining property values.
Also endangered: his department’s entire $72,421 crossing guard budget.
“This information is being provided to you in the event that our agency is no longer able to provide funding for these school-related programs,” Nugent said to school superintendent Wayne Alexander in a March 6 letter obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.
Alexander said the School Board had been expecting the bad news, and would try to fund as much of the shortfall as it could.
“I knew it was coming,” he added. “(The School Board) is going to pay for it, or at least some part of that.”
Currently the schools pay $410,200 to station a school resource officer (SRO) in each of the county’s four middle schools, two K-8 schools, and the district’s alternative school. The sheriff’s office budgets $569,386 for four officers at the high school level, plus a “floating” officer to cover for illnesses and training absences.
If the sheriff’s office cuts those services, including the crossing guards, it would cost the School Board an extra $641,807 per year, Nugent said.
Alexander said the board might shift its SRO funds from the middle school to high school levels if the sheriff’s office withdraws support. That could mean some middle schools will no longer have their own officer on a full-time basis, or schools might have to share an officer, he said.
“I’m sure they’re essential in high schools, because I’ve been a high school principal,” Alexander said. He said he wasn’t sure how such officers were being used in middle schools, and planned to find out.
For more, read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times or visit www.hernando.tampabay.com.
--Tom Marshall and Barbara Behrendt, Times staff writers